Priorities

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow–even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving to be a bud on a Spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, to fear and to hope. The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that is alive.

–Please Call me by my True Names, Thich Nhat Hanh

What a week!  First the devastating earthquake in Haiti and then the saddest news much closer to home.

A few months ago, a woman who I knew as a business friend, I’ll call her Mary Jones, decided to take some time off from an organization in which we were working together.   She didn’t give a reason why.  There were of course times when that was so frustrating.

I was often asked aren’t you angry? Don’t you want to know? After all, I was Mary’s Co-Chair, didn’t I deserve an answer?  But the fact is she was one of the most responsible, lovely people I have ever known and if privacy is what Mary wanted, well wasn’t that her right?  Shouldn’t I respect it?

But this is the part I can’t get out of my head.  On Friday morning, I found out that she died while resting on the couch holding her husband’s hand.  And he didn’t even know she was gone.  What an amazing image of complete dedication and love.  Can you imagine how peaceful Mary must have been?

Isn’t that what you want at the end of your life?  Not that any of us really wants to think about the end of our own lives.  Wrapping my head around anyone else’s is tough enough.  And especially when there is no warning, no time to say goodbye or to prepare our hearts for that empty space that suddenly opens up.

I didn’t sleep well at all that night and in the morning, my husband generously took our daughter downstairs so that I could get some more rest.  When I stumbled downstairs  still in my pajamas, there were the two great loves of my life all tangled together on the couch still in their pajamas too, watching, of all things, “It Might Get Loud”.  And I did something I don’t usually do, I just stopped.

There were two spots on the couch, one large and one small.  I squeezed into the small one and wrapped myself around the two of them and just held on.  The dishes could sit in the sink, breakfast could be made later, even that first cup of coffee could wait…  We had a bigger priority.

So thank you, Mary Jones, for helping me remind me of my priorities.  In life, no matter the situation you always had a smile and a kind word.   Elizabeth Kubler-Ross once gave this piece of advice: to simply ask yourself  “If everybody would live as I have today, would the world be a better place?”  With Mary in it, the world was indeed a better place.

Mary, the world shines a little less brightly without your light in it.  Now, it’s up to the rest of us to increase our wattage!  Pass it on…

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4 Responses to “Priorities”

  1. EntertainingMom Says:

    What a great post! So true… and yes, I cannot think of a more perfect way to go.

  2. Olga Adler Says:

    Beautiful post, Catherine.


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