Although I no longer celebrate a Christian Lent, I am still very aware of its origins and potential purpose in my life as a time of reflection and intentional, self-induced weight to better enjoy an easter-like release. Sometimes I miss the ashes, the “giving-up-something” rituals, knowing full well I can join in without the religiousity; I reflect in my own way and still take the time to get my “house” in order. For instance, Ed and I recently met with the attorney who drew up our wills about a decade ago. Realizing we needed some changes made, particularly the part about our donating our bodies to science. We loved the idea—still do—about being a part of someone’s education even after death. But the caveat is that organs cannot be donated as the body needs to be intact for whatever experiments might be conducted. We agreed to that at first, but that now, coupled with Danny’s desire to have a place for us, denoted change. (We settled on our ashes being part of a tree he’d plant in a place of meaning for him. The thought of us possibly decomposing in a desert or swamp for 10+ years was too unsettling to him…we got it…) Meeting with the lawyer this time was perfunctory, but gave us the chance to really think about our lives ending and reaffirming that if we live well, death is no more than a matter of fact.
This sentiment was really proven for me when I preformed my first funeral this winter as a celebrant. I am proud of the ceremony I wrote and conducted. Of how I supported the family and their guests that day. I gradually came to the understanding, though, that being there for them was easy because he seemed to be a remarkable man. Positive. Devoted. Loving. GIVING—as was the theme. As I read the words I wrote, about the memories his daughter had shared, I couldn’t deny my longing to have known him personally. Remarkable people are that for a reason—they are rare and inspiring. And thinking about my circle of people, I realized that there is nothing better than a life well-lived.
I have an obligation to them. We have one to each other.
And this isn’t always easy because some decisions about our own thoughts and actions might garner unintended consequences. And some boundaries might need to be erected to maintain safety. And those things certainly come with no guarantee of love as a return. Putting others first hadn’t always worked out for me; although it is something I aspire to do, it is not always attainable. At my most vulnerable, others have gotten the best of me and I’ve licked many wounds and learned many lessons. Stretching to be at my best, while being mindful of my limitations, helps me keep my heart in check. I hope I live well. I hope I die well. And that others can look back and think I might have done some good while I was here.
To foster our community, Ed and I hosted our Vernal Equinox dinner last night. We invited some new people to be “our people”; we talked, enjoyed each other’s company, and ate and drank deliciously. Afterward, we meandered to the sun porch to plant bulbs so we can have a little life in a pot—reminders of a rich evening, with supportive, loving people. Over the upcoming weeks, as the sprouts reach skyward and bloom to flower, we hope we can mimic that as best we can for each other and for those with whom we come into contact. Our hearts and gardens, full.
(Ed and I bought a copy of this book to help organize our information for those who have to deal with our things after we die. Maybe it will help others, too:)