A couple of weeks ago I spent an afternoon driving up to Boulder, Colorado. It was a beautiful day. The leaves were changing in colors of red and gold.
We were going to say goodbye to my husband’s great aunt. She had cancer and it’d spread. Originating in her kidneys, it was now overcoming other parts and shutting her body down.
She was not someone that I knew very well. I’d met her maybe twice, in brief passing at our wedding and at another family event. But he was inclined to go up and say goodbye and asked me to join him.
We pulled into the hospital parking lot and I couldn’t help but think, This is a nice place to die.
We walked in silence in the halls of the hospital. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Since I didn’t really know this woman, I felt like I was taking space in a vulnerable, uncomfortable time.
I took a deep breath when we reached the outside of her room and followed my husband in.
“I think they’re wrong.”
We were met with a huge smile.
She was sitting in a reclining chair in front of a large window that overlooked a golden meadow flanked by a forest of trees colored with fall foliage.
I was immediately struck by this woman and her unwavering positivity.
The doctors told her she only had a few days to live, but she looked me straight in the eye and said, “I think they’re wrong.”
And she meant it.
I’ve read stories about miraculous recoveries from diagnoses like this and as I sat in the chair across from her, I felt like it could be a possibility.
“Don’t stop writing.”
She told me that she diligently read the posts that I write here and she told me how much she enjoyed them.
“You write beautifully,” she said, “Keep at it. Don’t stop.”
It’s not often that I meet someone face to face who reads what I write here. A woman that I didn’t know well, but who’d connected to my words. Sometimes I forget that anyone could be reading them 🙂
I was very taken by her energy. It was not what I was expecting when I heard we were making a trip to the bedside of a dying woman.
When I gave her a hug goodbye she left me with further words of encouragement, “Don’t stop writing. You’re doing great things.”
What do you say when you grant a last goodbye?
She was frail. My hug melted away.
The Spaces In Between
That experience stayed with me. Death is always a reminder of life and not to take things for granted.
I know that this can be hard when there is struggle. And let’s be real. Life can be a struggle, especially when you’re living with pain.
Life is suffering. Biggest lesson I picked up from the Buddha 🙂
But in the end, it’s about the spaces in between. Those spaces where there are hints of joy, laughter and peace.
As a woman with endometriosis, some of my greatest suffering has come during the start of my period, when a wave of pain washes over. Then the contractions start.
But in between the spasms and stabbings of pain there are moments of relief.
I paid attention to these moments as my period welcomed me a week ago. I relished in those breaks from the pain. I thanked God for them.
Instead of worrying about the next contraction, I fully experienced those twinkles of peace.
On the Positive Side?
I take all of this to a bigger meaning… to pay attention to those spaces in between. Those small moments that could easily pass by if you’re not paying attention.
It’s those small pieces of time that are missed when they are no more. It’s those blips of joy, peace, pleasure and inspiration that make up this life. This life that is truly so short.
The lovely woman’s encouragement still lives in my heart. She touched me deeply that day.
And yesterday, she passed away.
So I write this for her. And for you.
Treasure those spaces in between. Pay attention to them.
It doesn’t hurt to believe. To be optimistic.
Don’t stress too much. No need to dwell in all that is wrong. Shrug off what you can.
Make those spaces in between wider.
And hug those you love a little tighter today.