Lately it has seemed as if there’s been an unusual rash of health challenges for my friends–a recurring malignant brain tumor, a stroke, three separate incidents of heart problems requiring stents and resulting in blood clots and other complications, a hernia operation–is this what getting older is about?
I think about the years that L struggled to fight back from his stroke–his brain tumor (benign but nonetheless damaging) and the lung diseases that partnered to take his life. And I realize that knowing what I now know about the best laid fights of man against disease in far too many situations the disease eventually wins, I am afriad for my friends and for their spouses and their children and grandchildren. And I feel so very helpless to do more than simply let them know that I am here and I am thinking of them–holding them in the Light as my Quaker Friends would say.
There is a temptation to throw in the towel–to say that it’s all downhill from here–but I know that L would be furious with that path. There is a saying “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” (Pericles)
L had that gift–the gift of reaching out to others, listening and applauding and sympathizing and laughing (or crying) with them. He celebrated the successes and milestones of those around him and he consoled them when there were those moments that did not go as planned. He was the proverbial glass-half-full man and even now more than a year after his death, he is intricately woven into the fiber of those friends who saw his years of struggle and now hope to be that courageous and that strong and that giving as they face challenges of their own.
And what I try to practice every day is that same spirit of “you not me”–I feel I not only want to do this because it makes me a calmer, more peaceful person–but I also feel called to be that poor substitute for what these dear friends once received from L. It is a daily struggle for I am by nature far more self-centered than he ever was–but the rewards are so great that every day giving of myslef to others becomes a little easier–a little more normal–and a great deal more rewarding.