I'm 2300 miles from home this week, for a couple reasons.
The first is to take a brief personal retreat in a part of the country that helped shape me as a human being. Since moving away in 2006, I get to Wheaton, Illinois fairly often, usually arranging to meet with friends, stroll through the beautiful campus, and drive by our old neighborhood. This time I'm mostly a solitary soul tucked away in a hotel room and a nearby coffee shop reading, napping, contemplating, and pondering the meaning of life.
(The other reason for being in Illinois this week is to go to Wrigley Field with a dear friend to watch the Cubs and the Reds battle for last place in the National League Central division. Enough said about that.)
While away, I'm reading a book that poses four provocative questions. One of them goes like this:
How shall I live, knowing I will die?
We don't talk much about death in our society, maybe especially not in the United States. A physician once told me that the US is the only place where people think death is optional.
The author writes of Kirsten, a woman dying of breast cancer, who simplified her life in order to spend her final days in meaningful ways. Miraculously, she survived the cancer, and now lives with greater awareness of death.
I only give my care and attention to what is really important -- being loving, being kind, creating beauty, being grateful.
Since reading and highlighting this sentence of the book, I've been pondering these: being loving, being kind, creating beauty, being grateful.
Writing more books, building financial security, and having a good reputation didn't even make Kirsten's list. If I'm honest, these things have demanded too much of my attention in recent years. Maybe through my whole life.
Being loving, being kind, creating beauty, being grateful. These four.
I think Kirsten found something important by staring death in the face.