Monday, May 8, 2017

      This week, I will pray for a friend undergoing life-threatening surgery. I will pray for a friend who is recovering from a medical procedure. I will pray for a friend who continues to courageously fight a battle with a disease anyone of us could contract. I will pray for our congressmen who seem to have lost sight of the health care of millions of Americans. I will pray for strength not to judge, not to take for granted all the blessings I have, and to continue to try to pound into my head the lessons of mercy and forgiveness so eloquently described in Ann LaMott’s latest read. 

     When my daughter sent me a picture of my 17-year-old grandson and his date at the junior prom, I felt tears stream down my cheeks. Where did those years go? It seems like just yesterday that I was holding him in my arms choking back tears of gratitude for our first healthy grandchild. Now there are ten of them whom I don’t see often enough, but whom I love dearly.

     One thing about aging is that there is time and wisdom to reflect. Looking back at one’s life can be a humbling experience. I have few regrets, but I would be lying to say I have none. I’ve learned that life is fragile, complicated and sometimes gut-wrenchingly painful, but it is also exciting, exhilarating, and just plain fun.  

     I have a poster on my wall that says, “She bled on the pages of her life.” That’s how I want to leave this world. I want to have laughed until my sides ache, bled from risking every possible adventure and feel from every pore in my body what life has to offer. I want to leave the world a tiny bit better somehow and know that my daughters will carry on with the best parts of me and forgive the expectations to which I just couldn’t measure up. I want to leave my French melodies on the lips of the thousands of students who walked into my classroom and whose lives touched mine in so many different ways. I want my ashes to blow in the wind over the Mediterranean and signal peace to people of all lands. 

     Yes, I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in the goodness of most people. I believe that you can do whatever you want to do with your life if you are willing to work tirelessly, expect roadblocks and failures but refuse to stop risking. I believe that sickness is random, and if we are dealt an unfair hand that there will always be merciful, compassionate people who will hold us gently as we try to heal. Yes, sometimes I hear myself mutter negative things like, “Why bother?” or “Of course, that would happen to me.” But in the clarity of a given moment, I know that so much depends on how we react and how hard we want to work at making things better.

    I am not one of those goody-goodies that tries to convince you that my life is perfect, and if you don’t think like me, you’re wrong. Lord knows, there are plenty out there like that, but most of us are just trying to squeeze the sweet out of every day and do our best. I choose to focus on the positive as much as I can. Sometimes I can’t. I try to celebrate the beauty of every day Sometimes I can’t. I try to embrace every healthy day and be grateful. Sometimes I can’t. I have learned that expectations can be absurd and reality bites. I have learned that the definition of “crisis” can change on a dime, and people will disappoint or inspire depending on my perspective and attitude. 

    So what’s the point? The point is that maybe we should be reflecting long before we are even aware of the “aging” process. Maybe we should think about whether we believe in prayer before that’s all we have left. Maybe we should risk more and think ahead about the legacy we want to leave instead of looking back to see whether what we are leaving is good enough. Or maybe not. Maybe we should should just read blogs and go about our business.