Recently writing a sympathy note to a friend whose husband had died, I recalled a happy memory: his catching trout in a mountain stream, her cooking it, several of us savoring it. It seems now such an innocent time, none of us aware that in a few years, a terminal illness would start, later ending his life.
It recalled the haunting question asked by Emily in the play Our Town: “Does any human ever realize life as they live it, every, every minute?” The stage manager or God figure replies, “the saints and poets, maybe, they do some.” I’d always taken that as a challenge to become saints and poets, but perhaps it’s also good to revisit the achy place where we understand how frail and tentative all our experiences are. In a few years (or months) any of us could be sitting painfully in a hospital or retirement center, regretting our blasé, take-it-for-granted attitudes.
Most mystics counsel, Be Present Now. To live in the past is depressing; to live in the future anxious; only the present can bring happiness. And so I write my oldest son’s birthday card with deep gratitude, remembering a friend who said, “My son would’ve been 42 now—if he’d lived.” Or I pick up my grandson from kindergarten with delight, noticing how he holds tight to a new, precious book, even while he’s kicking a soccer ball around the playground.
Perhaps our blissful ignorance is a mercy. If we knew how short-lived everything was, we’d be paralyzed. It could be that heaven gives us back our best times to fully appreciate, undimmed by forgetfulness or flaws, clear and beautiful as they came from God’s hand. Then we turn wallowing to hallowing.
Presented by Kathy Coffey