Recently, I had the privilege of being invited to a “Celebration of Life” for a long-standing colleague of mine who has been battling cancer.
I’d never been to anything like this before, and I had no idea of what to expect. I’ll admit to feeling a little trepidation; I had no frame of reference for how to act, how to behave and what to say. The one thing I did have was the invitation that said it was going to be “a focus on the good times, and not the good-byes.” And “no black”.
At the event, held in a bright and airy room on a perfect waning summer’s day, there were stories and tales and memories that had everyone smiling. I learned things about her I had never known – remarkable, jaw dropping things; all those the unspoken lives that our friends have lived before we knew them. She’s always been an impressive person, but with the back-story filled in, she’s even more so.
And at the end of the event, after sharing those few hours with her, and with her husband, her two grown sons, their extended family and friends, I realized that the steady march to the final goal line need not be a maudlin, angst ridden affair. No. It can be uplifting. Hell, even inspiring.
It’s also a great elbow-in-the-ribs where perspective is concerned.
Driving home was quiet and reflective. Work stress, annoyances, (other drivers!), commonplace hassles and all the rest of that day-to-day aggravation of living… after a Celebration of Life with someone who is facing their mortality with such grace and calm, you suddenly realize that it’s all a great privilege: being annoyed by that jerk who doesn’t use his indicators; getting hung up in the line at the grocery store that moves too slowly; that chore waiting for you at home – it’s all part of life, part of living. And getting to do it is an absolute privilege.
So I try to remind myself now of that simple but glaring truth. She said it best, there in the middle of that Celebration of Life: “live every bit of your life.”
So stop for that rose. And stop often.