Good day, team.
My vacation this past week was punctuated by three events that influence the theme of this week’s challenge: the death of a relative, turning a year older (on the same day as my relative’s death) and a visit to the town where I grew up.
Experiencing the solemnity of death and the celebration of a birthday all in one day was bittersweet. I found myself feeling contradictory emotions — both grief and joy throughout the day. My grandsons wanted Nana to celebrate her birthday with cake, ice cream and candles (of course, what five- and three-year-olds don’t want cake and ice cream whenever they can get it?). And yet, it didn’t seem quite appropriate given that their grandfather on the other side of the family had just passed away. While we were grieving his death, we also felt grateful that he died peacefully surrounded by those who loved him. So we also wanted to celebrate his life.
Visiting my old home was bittersweet, as well. I was reminded of the many happy times I experienced in this beautiful town where I spent my formative years. It made me happy to walk down memory lane and feel some of the joy I experienced while living there. At the same time, I realized that the happy, safe and tranquil feeling of those years completely disappeared after we moved away. Once we left, all of our lives changed drastically with my parents divorce. Little did I know, as we drove away in our old Plymouth station wagon, that my childhood innocence of naive trust would be left behind. Life became very complicated after that.
All of last week’s events made me realize, yet again, how precious life is and the importance of living each moment as it comes. Whether it’s grieving the death of a loved one or celebrating the emergence of another year, we have a finite amount of time to be here, right now.
My dear friend, Kate Dwyer, summed it up beautifully. Upon reading about my experiences of the week she replied,
“And then for you, sort of a body slam presentation of every lesson we all think we’ve learned but discover regularly that we have not learned deeply enough: Entrances and Exits. Pay Attention. Savor the moment. Ye know not the moment nor the hour.”
Your challenge this week is to savor the moment. Taste your food. Feel the sweat on your brow. See the person you’re talking to. Experience the moment in whatever form it takes. As the moments tick by in your life, give some thought to how you want to experience it. Will you experience the beauty of a new morning or find yourself worrying about tomorrow?
Mary Oliver so eloquently addressed this question in her poem “The Summer Day.” Here’s the poem in its entirety. I hope it speaks to you this week.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean —
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
from “New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA
Have a good week!
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