Wednesday, October 24, 2012

One Wild and Precious Life

I am feeling reflective today. Yesterday, a faculty member from my high school passed away, only a few weeks after being hospitalized to be treated for bladder cancer. As far as I know, before that he was still teaching math and coaching. I never had him as a teacher, but his wife joined students in dance classes, and I performed with her. I grieve for her. Their daughters attended the school with me; one was a year ahead, the other, three years behind. I grieve for them. I also grieve for his students. We lost three faculty members my senior year, and one was like this--mid-term diagnosed with cancer, gone very quickly, most beloved.

As I walked my dog Lily this morning through the wooded country roads of the town where I have been serving at a new call since September, I couldn't help but think of poet Mary Oliver's famous question: "What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Once again, Perspective has come and knocked me out of my procrastinating, lackadaisical meandering through life.

The other quote that was running through my head this morning was from an anti-drug commercial. Remember the ones where kids were listing what they wanted to be when they grew up, and the voice at the end says, "No one says they want to be a junkie when they grow up." Of course, it's different, but no one plans for cancer, either. No one says, "Ok, I'll graduate and get a job and get married and have kids and then I'll deal with cancer, and we'll just have to see after that."

Yesterday, I discovered the Facebook page of a family trying to bring everyone home. Sean was serving in Afghanistan. Heather was pregnant with a child they'd prayed 7 years for. Baby John was growing in her womb. Then, at 34 weeks, Heather had back pain and a headache, went to the hospital, and collapsed with a massive brain bleed. Baby John was delivered by emergency C-section. Sean spent 72 hours trying to get home. Heather slipped into a coma. Sean is home from war, Baby John is home after 20 days in the hospital, and Heather is still in a coma. I'm sure this is not the life they imagined when they found out they were finally expecting. In an instant, everything changed.

A woman I went to elementary school with is the mother of three beautiful girls. One January day, she took her youngest, then just 22 months old, to the ER with a swollen belly, thinking she was constipated. Instead, it was a tumor on her liver, that had basically appeared overnight. Neuroblastoma. No treatments were successful; little Rylie Hope died in April of the following year, a month after her third birthday. Not a day goes by that I don't think of that little girl, who I never had the chance to meet, but whose smile enchanted me through photos.

Shit happens when you least expect it. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Forget plans. What ARE you DOING with your one wild and precious life?

Of course, it's hard to live like that. There are bills to pay, and the yard needs to be raked so that if you are indeed around for next spring, the lawn won't look like hell, and there is work to do, and savings to build because what if you do live to be 102?

But still. Today, anyway, I'm being mindful. I will go rake leaves not just because it's a chore to complete but because I love the colorful leaves and the sound of the dog racing through them and the smell of their damp earthiness. And I will wash the dishes, and clean the dining room and organize information for the worship bulletin because those things need to get done. But I blogged, which I've been meaning to do for months, and hope to do much more frequently. And if I don't get to sew today, at least I'll do some sketches.

See, Mary Oliver's question makes me nervous, makes me fearful of death, because right now, if I were asked what I did with my one wild and precious life, I don't think I'd like the answer. Right now, I'm wasting it, betting that I can do things tomorrow, next month, in a few years. No. I get one. ONE wild and precious life, and it's time to stop wasting it, and start singing, "No day but to-day!"

I'm off to rake leaves.

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