by Jane Kramer~Tears welled as the captioned photo book, Acadia, the first of many journeys flapped shut. The thrill of young love remembered caused a shiver to run down my back.What does it take to be present in the world of love, nature and happiness? Is it possible to let go of daily struggles and create a beautiful life?
This touching and inspirational story from the New York Times is about a woman who was present and happy in the face of challenge. It is a story of a doctor named Lissa choosing how to die. I see it as a story about choosing how to live.
It was my good fortune to have Lissa as a house guest on one of her adventures with my sister-in-law, Judi. Her presence filled my home with life and warmth. It was so difficult to believe that Lissa knew her illness was terminal. Judi talks of Lissa’s passing this way:
“Lissa was amazing, to say the least, an inspiration to all, who profoundly affected every person she met. The thoughtfulness with which she approached her death was the same thoughtfulness with which she approached everything, from mundane everyday things to her recent trips (despite her illness) to Machu Pichu, Turkey, France, Wimbledon, Sea Isle GA. She profoundly changed the way medicine is taught at Case Med School, instilling humanism throughout the curriculum. As a friend so poignantly put it, she was an archaeologist of life.
We took long walks several times a week, with never a loss for words. We acknowledged her illness only when necessary, surely part of the reason she far outlived even the most optimistic prognosis. We laughed and laughed and laughed, and we did more fun, interesting things together than most people do in a lifetime. Every day was an adventure; and every day was a bright bright bright sunshiny day (our mantra).
She died at home, with grace and beauty, with her family around her, reading poetry to her. The closest of us were all right there the last few days. The text her son Will sent to (my son) Jonny, explaining the strength he got from the way she left them, was truly amazing. And we are all stronger for it, all left feeling truly blessed for having had her in our lives.”
Lissa set the intention to live her life with conscious wonderment each day. She truly lived in the moment. She wrote a blog called Saving Lissa, containing her poetry. This was one way she expressed all that she experienced. The power of Lissa’s attitude resonates strongly for me. Aspiring to live with a sense of peace and presence is a daily practice. This story reminds me to think about living with awareness today and every day! Life doesn’t just happen. It is full of choices.
Yoga is one practice that I choose to schedule as often as possible. Taking account of what I love to do and doing it is another way I work to maintain balance and joy. Most of my days were filled with caring for others.
My newly empty nest opened more time for my work as a coach, spending time with family and friends, my puppy, Millie, yoga, walking, singing, reading, coursework, and volunteer work. Getting back to playing the piano, doing crafts and performing in the theater are also goals of mine. By setting priorities, creating goals and consciously creating joy, I feel tremendously energized.
I ask myself, “How important is it that I do this task right now?”, which helps me create the space to be present in my world. Adding a little happiness to each day is helping me to create a life of conscious wonderment and peace. I am learning from Lissa’s example to become “an archaeologist of life”.