Inspiring Lives

These past few weeks there have been 2 deaths that have touched my life. The first, Friday August 19th, was my partner’s mother, Pearl. I have not known Pearl for many years, but I have felt her presence, her heart, and her support in the life of my partner, and in his stories of his mother and all the ways she gave lasting gifts to her whole family.

Death is a good reminder to us to reflect on the things that are most important to us. I am reminded to fully live in each present moment; none of us know how many moments we will have, and really this moment is all that we have. Let go of the past, don’t worry about the future, and be present in the now. And yet there is the need to set goals, to make plans … On some level we do need to think of the future. The challenge is to not be attached to things in the future, to the attainment of certain goals, in order to enjoy life now. This is not an easy tension to maintain consistently (at least not for me!). In his book, “Inner Excellence”, Jim Murphy captures this tension well with the statement “Live as if you’ll die tomorrow and prepare as if you’ll live forever.”
These themes resonated for me as I read the program from Pearl’s funeral service – wise words gleaned from a full and loving life:
“Pearl’s wishes also included that family and friends reflect on their journey in life thus far and ensure that they fulfill their own life paths and know that even though trials and tribulations may cause sorrow that they can rise above these issues and let life be.
To let life flow through them and to attain a simple “Joy” of just being.”
I am reminded of the simple meditative practice to focus on our breath. And to remember that every breath is a gift, a miracle. Being mindful of this gift of breath, the miracle of life, helps us have Pearl’s simple “Joy” of just being.
The second death, on Monday August 22, is more well known; Canada’s leader of the NDP and of the Official Opposition, Jack Layton. So many have been touched by his passion for service to his country. Gov. Gen. David Johnston noted that Mr. Layton was a ‘clear and passionate voice for the ordinary person’, and the outpouring from Canadians across the political spectrum illustrates the impact of Jack Layton’s public life and leadership. I have been deeply moved and inspired as I have watched news pieces on his career and life. I was amazed at his spirit of optimism and encouragement in his last letter to Canadians, as he faced his last days and hours of life. He encouraged other Canadians fighting cancer that they had “every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future” and to “cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey”. 
As I write this I am sitting in ‘The Bean’ (Bean Around the World) with my cuppa, and there is a song playing with the repeating chorus, “I’m gonna live before I die”. The universe has a way of connecting so many things! Yes, I hope we all fully live before we die. I definitely think Pearl and Jack truly did.
You can read Jack Layton’s full letter to Canadians here
and I will finish this post with his powerful last words:
“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”
September 5, 2011