That party game that asks hard questions came to mind today. What if you had one year left to live? What would you change? What would you do? I actually posed that question to a small group of colleagues during a get-to-know-you exercise a couple of years ago. Now I am living that question. I do not know exactly how much time I have left and I know that God’s help line is overloaded with the miracle request, but I find comfort in my answer to that question.
The narrow view for me is to respond as a dreamer. I have taken the broader view and now at this juncture in my life, I find solace in that. My answer was that I would not change much. As I prepare to live out that reality, I am finding that this is true. What I did not know then, was that energy and wellness might factor into it. That is partially where dreamers can set lofty goals such as saying that we would travel around the world. Our bucket list–or as I have always called mine–my life list–needs as many ticks as possible. Well, here is why I think that is the narrow view. I apologize in advance if I am already sounding judgmental but bear with me.
I cannot remember how old I was when I first compiled my life list, but I think I was in my early 20s. I have never found the precious paper, despite looking. I must have packed it away in one of my boxes during a move and never unpacked it. The essence of it I know well. What I soon learned was that having a list made me explore life more fully, even if I did not check off every single box. I have ridden both an elephant and a camel. I have not been up in a hot air balloon–perhaps I was not yet aware of my fear of heights at the time. I have been to many, but not all the continents. I have learned to cook amazing food–and in doing so, hosted some fabulous gatherings. I have not yet written that book, but four blogs later, most of you know much of my life story. I never did get married but I have been in love with some amazing men who loved me back. Not only did I do mission work in my beloved Africa, but I also had the opportunity to go to Guatemala which was a place I probably could not locate on a map when I wrote the list.
My point, in case you are wondering, is that I have spent my life living out my bucket list already. I feel really blessed that I figured that out early on. I can stand at this crossroads and ask what will I do with the time left and not panic. My life has been amazing; it has been beyond my imagination of a wild and glorious life. I do not feel a need to run out and try to accomplish many things. In fact, if I died in my sleep tonight, I would be as content as if I were to die six months from now.
I am sad that I will not get to explore more and meet new people. I will not deny that. This afternoon I thought about whether I should even develop any new relationships. For a fleeting moment, my answer was no, but then I knew that was not who I am. I want to see every gift in front of me; I want to recognize God in all the people who present themselves to me. Today, after mass, a lovely woman from my community placed a hand on my shoulder. I turned to greet her and responded to her how are you with I am fine. I observed the subtle shift in her facial expression. You’ve heard the news, I surmised. She nodded and placed an arm around my waist. I don’t know what to say except that you are very much loved, she told me. Tears welled up in our eyes. I could only whisper thank you.
Thus alternatively, the narrow view might be to close myself off, to live the next months in fear, and to stop doing the simple things I love such as attending daily mass. Instead I want to be vulnerable. I want to let people love me. I want to be with the people who mean the world to me and to make as many memories as we can. I want to continue to go to meetings, give teachings, write my blog, hang out with friends, see movies, and do banal things. This is the broad view in my mind. I want to keep living the wonderful life that I have. Yes, that might include a faraway adventure with friends, but it will also include the daily events that I have created and cherished with dear ones. I still have a stack of books by my bed that I want to read. I will still show up for lectures to learn something new. I will watch the news and pray for my world, even as I prepare to leave it.
I have always believed that I have much to learn from the people around me and I suspect in order for me to be healed that I must still pay attention to the lessons offered in these coming months. This week of receiving messages of how I have impacted people’s lives and learning how much I am loved has been a tad overwhelming. George Bailey and I share some insights now. I want to be open to the graces that are presented and to integrate them into my psyche. I have much to learn yet and that excites me.
In a realistic manner, how would you respond to the question about how you would spend your life if you were given a year to live?
George Bailey learned a lot as he watched Clarence take him back over his life in the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. What do you think people might say about the impact of your life if given the chance?
Give me eyes, Creator, to see with your vision, not mine. Let me see what is precious in the broad view. Make my heart open and vulnerable. Keep my spirit grateful and gracious. Let me live with joy and love. Amen.