On the Sunday morning before Thanksgiving, we got word that Angela’s grandmother had died overnight. Her death was completely unexpected – Angela had just talked to her a few days prior and there weren’t any signs that her passing would be soon. One day we went to bed preparing for her family to come here for the holiday, and the next we were rearranging everything to go to them for a holiday laced with a tapestry of new meanings.
A good portion of my message is about using our finite time, energy, and attention wisely. Most people read that as a purely mundane and practical issue, but many of you know that I mean it in both the everyday sense and the more sacred sense.
It boils down to this: how we spend our days is how we live our lives. Those moments that unconsciously slip away add up and are gone forever.
Each of us leave residue when we pass. Some of that residue is positive because we contribute to the development of our family, friends, society, and world. Other bits of residue are not-so positive, as we leave things unsaid, undone, and unplanned that others then have to deal with.
Because many of us don’t have the courage, emotional fortitude, and foresight to handle some of the hard conversations around the negative residue, the lives of those left behind become harder than they could have been. There’s a subtle paradox here: one of the best ways we can leave positive residue is to prepare ourselves and others so that there’s less negative residue when our time is done.
We can tell and show our loved ones that we love them. Often and sincerely.
We can prepare our affairs so that people aren’t left with a life’s worth of stuff that they have to sort through while they’re grieving.
We can develop others so that they can take our place in the social web that will endure past us.
We can learn to let go so that what we’re building lives on without us.
We can act on the reality that nothing we accumulate while we’re here goes with us. We start with nothing and leave with nothing.
Every present contains the seeds of a future – a future in which we’re not here as much as a future in which we are.
How will you use the limited time you have? What seeds are you planting, and what fruit will it bear for others? Please use what you have wisely.
Rest in peace, Patricia Wheeler. Thank you for living a life so bold and teaching us so many lessons along the way.