Today, I walked outside to my now dying sunflowers and was met with a flock of escaping birds who were perched on the branches of the drooping heads, gathering up every last bit of life these flowers had to offer.
No longer were the petals bright and inviting, no longer did the bees find sweet nectar from their flowers, and yet, their lives still have meaning.
My thoughts went to Brittany Maynard. With thousands of supporters applauding her decision, she is choosing death on November 1, rather than a life of neurological decline and eventual death hastened by her terminal brain cancer.
My mom chose death too. She was 31 and I was 12. And my heart was shattered.
To Brittany, and all who wish to end their suffering, I beg you to choose LIFE. Choose life until your very last breath – as God wills it.
Choosing death robs the world of your warmth and passion. Choosing death robs those closest to you – and strangers who never knew you – of the light which emanates from your soul. Eternal lessons of compassion and selflessness that can be learned in no other way than by caring for the dying are thwarted unless you choose life! Even when you can no longer talk or walk or see, your indomitable spirit, your courage, your LIVING makes an imprint on the souls of those who tenderly care for your body in your final hours.
And choosing death robs you of the sweet experiences with the divine that many dying hospice patients describe in their final days on this earth. It robs you of one more sunrise. It robs you of one more tear. It robs you of that last lesson you were meant to learn while you take your last breath. So LIVE! As you have done until now, squeeze out every last ounce of living until God calls you home.
My heart is full as I return home from the formal launch of my book at Barnes and Noble. God has a hand in each of our lives. I witnessed the miracle of connection – connection with family and friends who came to support me, as well as those whose paths crossed mine for the first time today because of our common experiences.
I spoke with moms and dads, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles who opened their hearts and shared of their own losses and the dark days of their own despair. And yet, their hearts are bright as they shared love and light with me.
One woman had seen the book last month at an Out of the Darkness Walk. She happened into the store today and shared with me glimpses of her own journey that began two years ago with the loss of her aunt – her mom’s sister. How grateful I am that our paths crossed again.
I received encouragement and light from Erica Hammon, author of Top Ten Strategies for Student Engagement. Her countenance radiated love and her positive energy was contagious. And I was blessed to partner with Angela Baxter, the talented designer of my book cover, as she signed copies of her own beautiful book, Amazing Grace. One young woman entered the store and saw the banner announcing HOPE. She had already read the book, Hope After Suicide. She was led to it on the store’s shelf after her own period of depression several weeks ago. She shared with me how her life was touched as she began her own healing journey by reading about my journey from darkness to light. And mine was touched that God brought the two of us together, reminding me that he is indeed the master weaver – weaving a beautiful tapestry from our life experiences and the people we meet. Sometimes we don’t understand why a certain thread was chosen, or how they all fit together, but God does. And every now and then, we catch a glimpse of the design – and for those brief moments, I am grateful.
I learned this week of an aunt four generations back who, shortly after the birth of her first baby, ended her life and that of her baby – life that was evidently unbearable for this early pioneer.
I am certain her family was devastated. And I cannot imagine the darkness this ancestor must have felt prior to her death.
Perhaps she felt broken – unfixable. Like many who end their lives, she may have felt like a burden to her family – or that she couldn’t possibly meet the demands of her young infant. And surely she could see no way out of the darkness.
Although not all of us will experience mental illness or the depths of despair that lead to thoughts of suicide, all of us at one time or another feel broken. “I’m not smart enough, or pretty enough, or kind enough, or faithful enough,” we tell ourselves. “I don’t love enough.”
Last week, a friend shared a beautiful verse from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem.”
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
None of us are perfect. And yet, we are ALL enough! Even with our shattered, broken hearts, we are enough! And though we may see through a glass darkly, to God, we are enough! And He loves us.
This last weekend, I rejoiced at the long-anticipated reunion of my mom’s family – cousins from East coast to West coast joined together in a first gathering of its kind since shortly after my mom’s death.
We planned to meet at Mom’s mountain retreat where Dad still lives with my step-mom. And we prayed to God. We asked him to send his angels to guard us from the torrential rain that was forecast.
I begged for a miracle.
Although Dad’s home would not hold the sixty who RSVP’d, the beautiful mountain property upon which his home resides was still green with spring-like life and warmer than usual sunshine until just the day before. Memories of Mom, her siblings, and family outings in the distant past wrapped around each tree. Mom’s mountain retreat would provide a heavenly backdrop for the long-awaited event.
That morning, though, God sent the rains.
And still the family gathered. Not at Mom’s heavenly home, but under a large pavilion down the road. Sheltered from the rain, we jumped at the loud thunder and crackling lightning that punctuated our laughter.
I looked at each cousin – each with his own set of disappointments, losses, and heartaches – and I saw love. Love penetrated deep within each soul and connected us together, despite the distance and the years.
I had prayed for a miracle. And I had tried to believe that God would stop the rain for me. Yet the rains came anyway. I asked God about this before people were scheduled to arrive, and I heard in my heart that he HAD provided a miracle. The miracle was in the LOVE.
Despite the rain – we were reunited in LOVE.