Tomorrow, I celebrate my four year old son’s birth day. Two days later, I will attend the burial of my deceased brother in law.
As I put together birth day gift bags for my son’s classmates this evening , I reflected on how just an hour before, I read a book to my children called Lifetimes, The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children. And indeed, this book is beautiful.
In simple language and gorgeous images, the book explains that all living things have a beginning and an end, and in between…there is life. Seems like something we all know, right? But, do we live like we know this?
As I placed the small coloring books and crayons into the bags, I smiled as I thought of my son and his funny personality. I remembered the anticipatory joy of his arrival and how I managed contractions with mindful breathing. Such a stark contrast to the deep sadness that accompanied our recent holiday season.
My brother in law entered the hospital two weeks before Christmas and died on New Year’s Day. He was diagnosed with cancer only a year ago. My mother in law birthed him into our world 60 years ago.
During the last year of his life, despite his physical pains and side effects from chemo, he lived his life as fully as he could. He traveled several times this past year to visit his family. I remember thinking, “Should he really travel when he is so sick?”
I worried that he would not have access to his doctors. What a fool I was. He knew, more than anyone of us in the family, the reality of “the beginning” and “the end”. He chose to live in joy and adventure as much as his body would allow.
Once again, I find myself holding space for both joy and sorrow, simultaneously in my heart. Despite my weeks of un-describable grief, I make room for the ecstatic joy I feel for my sweet, soon-to-be four year old son, with full awareness that on Wednesday, my heart will deepen with sadness as I mourn with my family.
As my dear friend and author Amy Wright Glenn wrote in her book, Birth, Breath and Death,
To be lovingly present through the primal, naked pain that marks aspects of birth, and to be lovingly present through the difficult, heart-wrenching ending that marks aspects of death is to learn about life and love”.
My experiences align with Amy’s words. Like Amy’s book that highlights our breath as the vehicle through which we travel between birth and death, I remember the simple book I read to my children tonight. We all have a beginning and an end. In between we have life.
In her gorgeous poem The Summer Day, poet Mary Oliver provokes us with this question:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
This week, I stare into the face of birth and death. As I do so, I take many deep, healing breaths and I remind myself that, in between…we have life. Glorious, mind-bending, earth-shattering, heart-breaking, love-filled LIFE.
And I ask myself, “What about beyond this week, this month or this year?” With the reminder that I too have an end, I think about my own life and how I want to live it.
As far as we know, we get one shot at this life as we know it.
So ask yourself this one valuable, life altering question:
Just exactly what DO I plan to do with mine?
Take many deep breaths. Then Go. Do. It.
This blog is dedicated to my sweet family, especially to my sister-in-law, who attended the births of my babies and who continuously teaches me the meaning of love. xo