I am reading Donald Miller lately. I started with one of his books and liked it so much I have, one by one, taken on his others as well. Currently, I am reading A Million Miles in A Thousand Years, a book about living a better story. For a writer, it is especially insightful since story is such an important part of what we do.
My reading time has been on and off, not my usual book-in-a-day pace, and since it is summer, that is perfectly acceptable. Between Peter’s surgery, and Louise’s rapid decline I have had much waiting time in which to read. It comes in spurts and Don Miller is a perfect writer for spurt reading. I just opened the book to the chapter where I left off and it was titled, The Beauty of A Tragedy. I wondered how it is that God does his master planning so effectively. This chapter, at this time, could not have been more on target for me.
The whole chapter was about a friend of his who lost his wife, and how even in the pain of tragedy, there is a beautiful story. He says, “I wondered how much it costs to be rich in friends and how many years and stories and scenes it takes to make rich life happen. You can’t build an end scene as beautiful as this by sitting on a couch. I wanted even more to write a better story for myself, something that leaves a beautiful feeling as the credits roll.” I couldn’t agree more. The frailness of life is magnified when waiting on death to come. Hearing from friends and relatives highlights what life should be about…the stories and the memories. It all begs us to examine our own lives. To think about what we will leave behind when our time comes and asks the question, “What kind of story am I writing?”
My thoughts are wandering today. My mind is exhausted even though I just got up. It is hard to focus on anything for more than a minute. It is what I call trauma-mode. I have been here before, numerous times, but always knocking at death’s door never crossing the threshold. Always stopping short. Either me, or the ones I love. Now I will cross from one side to the other, not myself of course, but one who is dear to my heart. It makes me sad, but at the same time, it gives me hope. Hope for freedom from this body, and this life at some point in the future. But also hope for this body and life now. Grief is a gift I think. The chance to see our future, and opportunity to change it.
I believe we can die without regrets, if we are intentional with the way we live. It becomes clear when you are living in trauma-mode, participating in the end of life, beside others. What you value shows up then. Who you are is apparent by the family, and the friends who come to your aid. I don’t think you can really know how many people you influence, or to what extent, until your life is ending. They come out of the woodwork then, and share their stories of you. They tell your story and how it impacted their own. I hate it that Louise isn’t present enough to hear them, but I am and I listen. It has made me resolve to tell stories to the people in my life who matter…before their end or before mine, whichever comes first. Easy enough to resolve to do that now, in trauma-mode. When regular life mode resumes, it will be more difficult to carry out. The grief lesson of the past couple of weeks/months is that I want to live a story that matters. Therein lies the hope.