In Anthony Doeer's most recent book, Madame Manec says to her long-time employer, "Don't you want to be alive before you die?"
She is talking to great-uncle Etienne, who has, for decades, lived solely within the confines of his tall house, in the company of his fears.
This morning I tuned into the Vinyl Cafe just as Stewart Mclean was recounting one of his wonderful Dave and Morley stories. It took the form of a letter written to Dave, a reply to a sympathy note he had sent to the wife of his childhood baseball coach. In this moving letter, the widow recounts how she and her husband spent their last vacation together, describing how, unable to sit, her husband lay on a yellow inflated air mattress which she dragged down to the lake every morning and again in the afternoon, so they could be together by the lake and hear the loons. This was a dream holiday they had talked about for years. This was a trip about love.
There is a strange popularity of books listing the places you need to see before you die; 'life lists' with itineraries of things to do and places to go. The Smithsonian website notes that 'bookstores brim with the titles such as 1,000 Places To See Before You Die, 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die' ...and the more esoteric, 'Fifty Places To Go Birding Before You Die.'
I particularly like an entry on Barnes & Noble's site that announces Patricia Schultz's 1.000 Places To See Before You Die, 2nd Edition: completely Revised and Updated with Over 200 New Entries. Were 200 entries dropped from the must-see list to make room? Had people travelled to places that they need not have visited?
While articles and books and websites write a great deal about what to do before death- seeming to imply that until you travel to these places, your life will be lacking- I haven't noticed one that quite simply says, be. here. now.
Be with yourself and with treasured ones of your own choosing; be open to love from unexpected sources; continue to do what you love most, even if it's for shorter periods of time and perhaps adjusted somewhat.
Continue wondering. And seeing. And being delighted.
In her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Pema Chodron talks about loving-kindness towards ourselves, about how this maitri doesn't mean we need to toss out how we feel- whether it be anger or jealousy or feelings of timidness or craziness-but rather, she writes, loving kindness is about 'befriending who we are already.'
While Madame asks the initial question in All The Light We Cannot See, it is Marie-Laure who nudges her great-uncle forward. It is because of her that Etienne, sequestered for nearly 24 years, becomes fully engaged in life.
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'Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.'
(All The Light We Cannot See)
A Lakota Nation saying is that 'forgiveness is about giving up all hope for a better past.'