Friday, April 8, 2011

SLAP! Handle With Care

Every once in a while we are reminded very powerfully of the nature and fragility of life. Sometimes the reminder is glorious and happy. It makes us giddy and opens our hearts to life.

These reminders are things like puppies, babies, gorgeous summer days with warm breezes and exceptionally cold beers, or crystal clear starry nights. We love these reminders and they leave us feeling energized, reconnected and restored.

There are other reminders that sometimes find us however; these are the sobering kind.  The sucker punch to the gut we didn’t see coming that whips us around and faces us to what we forget every minute of every day: THIS ONE IS ALL WE HAVE.

It’s a cliché that I didn’t use a few posts ago:  Yesterday is over. Tomorrow hasn’t happened. All we have this minute.

Seriously, what a cliché, right? Live in the NOW man!!! Take away the Cheech and Chong aspect of that statement and truly consider it.

After this moment, what do you have? You can drive home from work and be lost to an accident. Strokes collect people all the time. Cancer grows without our knowledge. People fall victim to gunshots while doing things so mundane as grocery shopping.  Do you think anyone who went to a Tuscon grocery store remembered to tell everyone in their lives how very much they meant to them?

I doubt it.

We don’t live so PRESENTLY as to consider that each breath is ALL we are guaranteed.  All we have is this moment. Nothing of our future is truly OURS. These thoughts are travelling through my brain right now because last week a woman whose child is in my son’s kindergarten class died, at age 44. 

She got the flu, stumbled into complications and died…without a shred of warning and in the sum total of three days from onset to ending. She leaves behind a kindergartner, first grader and second grader. And she had no idea to say good-bye.

My brother in law died in the same week, having just found a place of peace and happiness in his life.  He became free in every sense of the word and didn’t seem to take anything for granted.  Everything around him had grace and beauty.  His kindness and soft soul had found a gentle resting place where I think his life would have been a pleasant place to be.  And then the cancer won.

I’m not advocating that we be prisoners to the fear of death.

I am actually telling you the opposite, because what this crystallizes for me is the belief that if we can accept that we WILL die, and stop living in fear of it, then we can LIVE each day to its fullest. There isn’t a need to say good-bye or “put our affairs in order” if, in each day, in each moment, we’ve lived with dignity, with gusto and with compassion in our hearts for everyone around us.

If we embrace a way of living that allows us to deepen our acceptance of the inevitability of our leaving then aren’t we freer to fully engage in this moment?  The goal should be to always live with our affairs put to rights. There shouldn’t ever be anything unsaid.

Telling a loved one that they are loved isn’t something we should take for granted that they know or remember. And holding on to anger or resentment doesn’t add anything to whatever time is here for us. The bad emotions detract from the love and the life that is all around us.

In our very last moments what will NOT be important is the number of arguments we won, or how many possessions we have. No one will remember the times we were righteously correct, the places we traveled, or the money we had.

What people will remember of us is the kindness in our hearts. The love we held and gave away. People will remember the way they felt in our presence.

Even after our flaws and failings what counts above all is the caliber of our deepest insides.

The truest challenge of our time here on earth is to make this place a little nicer in the time we inhabit, a little more calm and peaceful.  Possibly happier. And this is a true challenge.

Because it absolutely requires that we stop assuming we know what we think we know.

It requires that we truly let go of conviction of others, even though we may preach that God is the only One who has that ability, and allow people to live a life of dignity in spite of ANYTHING. The requirement is that we honestly and deeply decide that what we think is just our opinion and not anything more than that.

An open and compassionate heart means allowing those around us to live peacefully even though we disagree with their politics, with their choice of job, that we let go of judging what we think we know of their lifestyle or failings. The weaknesses and struggles of one person are no better or worse than our own though they may come in a different package.

Each soul on this earth has a right to love and happiness. No one has the right to take away that pursuit because they pass judgment.

What can we learn from the deaths of loved ones and acquaintances who are taken too soon? What can we learn when we see someone struggle their whole life and finally, upon reaching a place of tranquility and peace, have it taken away? It’s unfair.

The answer is that we take away discrimination and we learn compassion.

WE LEARN COMPASSION. We must strive each and every day to learn and practice compassion.

It is never our place to presume we know what we think we know.  Because the truth is that we never know the full story behind a person’s life.

That kind of knowing is for a higher power to discern and we can instead happily occupy our time with giving the very best of ourselves in each day and in each moment TO life.  Our job as human siblings is to give each day to the best of our abilities without malice, without hatred, without judgment, and with gratitude and open understanding.

There is truly nothing left of worth if you aren’t sharing a loving heart.

This post is dedicated to my brother in law, Bill, who loved the mountains.

*Photo credits:,,,

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