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Wisdom From a Life Cut Short

It is an overcast June morning, and my friend and I are making our way down a trail we’ve travelled many times. Typically, we walk side-by-side, discussing our brilliant ideas and wondering why more people don’t take our advice. Today, however, we are not side-by-side. I am pushing her wheelchair. This will be her last summer.

 

The clouds break, and the sun quickly heats the air.

 

“I’ll find some shade,” I offer.

 

“Don’t you dare.” She tips her face to the sky.

 

Our time together is a privilege. Since her diagnosis, she has shed her life of people and activities that do not elevate her. She has become very selective about how she spends her days and with whom she shares them.  I am grateful to have made the cut.

 

The end of life, she’s teaching me, is an exercise in essentialism. There’s no time for grudges, gossip, pettiness, or trivial affairs. There is energy only for things that truly matter and people who have earned the right to intimacy. Time is precious, and her calendar reflects her priorities. She often says she’s building her eulogy, not her resume’.

 

My friend has learned to be in her life as it is, not as she hoped it would be. She is not focused on the missing pieces, but on those that remain. She has lost her mobility, independence, hair, and freedom. She has not, however, lost her wit, wonder, or faith. Some things cannot be touched.

 

She tells me she doesn’t regret her mistakes, only the pleasures she denied herself – long conversations, slow walks, good food. She tells me she was too concerned with how ice cream would look on her hips and not enough with how it would taste on her tongue. She talks about the value of empty space to wander and wonder. “I wish I would have spent more time just being amazed by God’s world.”

 

As we continue down the path, I take an internal inventory. I consider how I spend my time, where my devotions lie, when I last sat quietly and just let nature show off for me. I tuck away the wisdom of a life cut short.

 

So often, we claim we don’t have the time to invest in relationships. The drive is too long, the day too short, the schedule too full. However, those relationships are, in the end, the only things of true value. We are at our best when we are deeply connected, when we share experiences, when we honor the significance of simple presence.

 

 

The clouds darken and it begins to sprinkle.

 

“Want me to put the umbrella up?” I ask.

 

“Don’t you dare.” Again, she tips her face to the sky.

 

 

 

  “We were together, I forget the rest.”

Walt Whitman

 

 

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