A young woman passed away last weekend unexpectedly while having a wonderful day with her family on a nearby lake. I saw her photo in the paper and one of her family members was quoted as saying “We lost our little angel…God took her home at a early age and we will miss her dearly.” I have thought of that family often in these days, have layed in bed thinking of that young lady and her loved ones. In an accident that took a split second, a father lost his daughter and a brother lost his sister, so many lives were changed forever. I thought of their birthdays, weddings, vacations, everything that will come in that family’s lives and how they will be missing her. It’s often said “they are with us in spirit” and I relate to that but it does not make any of the pain go away. Today I sat to look ahead at summer plans with our family and something I have tried not to dwell on is there, staring at me and not letting me evade it any longer. This is the first summer we will visit family and a very special aunt will not be there. Thankfully she lived a long and blessed life but I had thought she would be with us much longer. When my father-in-law wrote me a card after her passing he said that she left some big foot prints. Some people are one of a kind. A while after she was gone someone in the family decided to give me a pair of earrings that I gave to her years ago while we were on a wonderful trip together. (A trip I almost did not take because of the expense, thankfully I went.) She loved those earrings and I don’t think I’m saying that because I gave them to her. They matched her favorite colors well and she wore them often. My heart is conflicted when I look of the earrings now. As we fret over our busy schedules, our full plates and overflowing in boxes, life is going by one day and one month and one year at a time. This aunt did not let life pass by, she picked up the phone, wrote the email, sent the card, made the plans. Plus she did this type of thing with all of her loved ones including dear friends, children of dear friends, long time colleagues, all people she cared for…and there were many of them. Her level of caring was remarkable and don’t get me started on her sharp and clever personality. I only wished I had known her my whole life, she was my aunt by marriage and not for long enough. Part of me doesn’t want to do any of the things we used to do with her because none of it will be the same without her. But life is not about digging your heels in the ground, it’s about acceptance. They say the deceased would want us to celebrate their lives instead of being sad when they leave. Of course she would want us to go to the beach, play at the lake, gather for dinner at sunset. Even if we are missing her silly faces, her perfectly dry sarcasm and how much she cared. I will miss her so much this summer. Last summer as I said good bye she said “Now that you’re leaving I don’t know what I’ll do with myself.” Then she said with a straight face, “I can’t go to lunch with anyone, all of my friends are dead.” I laughed at her and continued to laugh all the way to my gate at the airport. Life is for living, loving, laughing. Thankfully we have this day to live it, to write that note, make that call, smell the rain, watch the clouds, love, laugh. -smilingbug
I came across a Forbes article on line about the answers that leaders in the business world gave when asked “what inspires you?” I clicked right away and the answers were not what I was expecting. Things like “Game-changing people everywhere” from Richard Branson and “It was all started by a mouse,” by Jon Steinberg. I thought to myself, really… these are the things that inspire what Forbes described as “The World’s Top Leaders?” When I think of world leaders’ inspiration I think of, for example, cures for diseases, clean water for third world countries, vaccines for needy, shelters for the homeless. Pete Flint said “Solving Big Problems,” which is a bit non descript but maybe the closest to the big themes I was expecting. Trish Regan definitely struck a chord: “My mother’s determined pursuit to find answers,” (okay I’m a Mom, that was biased). Seriously, my favorite was from David H. Stevens: “A depression-era Dad and Pioneer Mom.” In one word: family. It made me think about what inspires me. What makes me be a better person, or makes me go the extra mile is my family. I thought about each person in my family and what they do or have done that blows me away. Each of them was an instance where they were taking an action that reminded me about what is important in life, why we are here. With each memory I thought “I want to be like that, I can do that more, that is what life is all about.” Even with all of the larger issues that could inspire someone the way that Bill Gates was inspired to saved millions of lives with clean water initiatives, we can still be inspired by something as simple as our Grandfather or our kid. Every person has a distinct form of inspiration and it changes over time. What inspires you today and in twenty years could be very different. But acknowledging what that inspiration is heightens your awareness of it. Just having thought of what insprires me has inspired me! What inspires you? Be inspired, time moves too fast to not recognize and capture your inspiration. -smilingbug
I came across a book in my home today, it reminded me of the day I went to see the author speak and I purchased the book to support him and take a look at his craft. (I’ve decided to leave the title and author out because I don’t mean any harm to him) The inside page reads “Dedicated to Jewish families of all backgrounds.”
The author spoke of how the number of practicing Jews is decreasing each generation and how so many Jews don’t consider themselves Jewish due to non observance within their families. When it came time for questions I raised my hand. “My household is multicultural and I would like to hear your thoughts on running a home with two faiths.” The author started by telling me that his advice was no disrespect to me (since I obviously married a non Jew) but that I should do everything in my power to keep my kids from marrying a non Jew, start talking to them about it when they’re young, etc.
I turned to look at my dear friend of many years, the Rabbi’s wife. We wore big grins and wanted to chuckle at his answer because we know my situation, but in reality it was not funny. It was a testament to the true view on multi-faith households by many. How far have we really come from judging races, those of a different sexual orientation or of those of a different religion?
The next person to raise their hand said they did all that the author advised me to do but that their son was raising his kids with almost no religion and they wanted to know how they could make an impact on their Grandchildren’s faith. Their faces were very distressed and the wife rung her hands as she spoke, pleading for help with this dilemma. I sat and felt a mix of not belonging and inner strength, perhaps the true trademarks of a convert.
Many of us want the same things: to love and be loved, to feel closeness to God, to give charity and contribute in some way to humankind if even just by being kind, to live by the same basic moral values.
Why must people of different faiths frown on each other? How far have humans come? When will different be okay?
My Dad once told me “getting older is wonderful” (and I wrote about that in a past blog) but I’m starting to think he meant getting wiser is wonderful or getting to the point in your life where you feel on top of your game is wonderful. Jerry Seinfeld’s interview on Howard Stern was rerun recently and he had a refreshing view on aging which I agree with but it also addresses getting wiser and mature but not old in an elderly sense. I’ll paraphrase what he said here: “The war is over… (and) it’s a very nice place to be… If you’re a little lucky in life you should enjoy getting older because you’re gonna see more. When you’re young you can’t see what’s going on so well. When you’re older (…you say) oh I see what’s going on here. I love that.” It reminded me of something a friend once told me which was roughly: In your 30’s you’re “am I doing this right?” In your 40’s you’re “I have arrived” and in your 50’s you’re “F–k you.” (a little graphic but you get the point) I believe these concepts are what could be wonderful about getting older. Diane von Furstenberg said in a June 2013 interview with Talk magazine, “Yesterday for lunch I met the most incredible 90-year-old woman…I just thought, Oh, my god, I still have time ahead of me.” -smilingbug
Diane von Furstenberg. Photo by Robyn Twomey.