As life becomes harder and more threatening, it also becomes richer,
because the fewer expectations we have,
the more good things of life become
unexpected gifts that we accept with gratitude.
Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life
This is one of the daily offerings I subscribe to from gratefulness.org, an email service introduced to me by Reta Lawler. Last fall I took Reta’s two-weekend workshop on “Coming Full Circle,” exploring the spiritual transformations possible within the dying process. A deeply moving experience for me, and shared with a richly heartful circle of people: facing our own death, befriending the dying process, permitting ourselves to feel the grief and loss already touched in our lives, writing a letter to ourselves from a loved one who has already passed on.
I’ve long been interested in death and dying (actually, the question of “what happens after we die” at age twelve ignited my lifetime spiritual quest). It is a time to personally become more accepting of loss. It certainly will be a major theme gong forward. Robyn’s heart challenges this past year brought into view the possibility of her passage, and then of course my own. We find more people in our own generation becoming, like ourselves, more limited physically. People in both our parents’ generation and our own are passing on.
And the personal losses are amplified by larger losses. The limits to growth are looming, as expressed in the financial collapse, the loss of 90% of our forests and large ocean fish, much of our topsoil, the stability of climate, so many wild beings and their habitats.
So I balance my awareness of loss with moments of gratitude: watching the seasons a bit more each day, hearing hundreds of sandhill cranes honking in their V’s returning northward, getting visited by two wild turkey toms, the visit of close friends to celebrate my birthday.
And these daily quotations invite me to pause, to reflect as well on my biggest gratitude: to be alive in this wondrous everchanging world, and to know it.
(Artwork: “Earth Hands” painted by Janaia ca 1983)