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Suburban Island

An ending
Friday, Dec. 13, 2002, 1:46 a.m.

The funeral is done. The prayers are said. Family and friends have expressed their condolences. I am back home and trying to catch up with the life I left a few days ago when we took a long winter drive to say goodbye to my mother-in-law.

Walking up the steep hill to the burial site, we were surrounded by a sea of gravestones that rested in the ground like unlit houses at twilight. Looking down over a world all covered in snow, feeling the cold wind push at us as the last words were said, was like being in a scene from Dr. Zhivago. There was something very isolated about the whole scene - a frozen moment in time - stark, white, final, crisp and damp like a photograph slightly edged in some salt tears. A whole lifetime finished and done and well-lived or not– it was sad. I think our sadness was a bit for ourselves as well as the deceased. We were left with the sobering recognition that we can’t hang out here in this world forever, as much as we sometimes think that we would like to, given the alternative.

A little dirt thrown on a coffin lid and then the workers just attend to their task of burying the dead. All in a day's work for them, but a very final reminder for all of us looking back over our shoulders, not only about how fast life races by, but how much difference we can create by the small daily choices we make in life as we deal with one another. Sometimes we can feel that we are leading a small ordinary sort of life but who knows. Often, because we aren’t a Mother Theresa or other saintly sort, we think we aren’t making a difference. However, we might be amazed if we saw the outcome of our everyday words and actions in the long run. I feel sure that some of the smallest things we have done in kindness might in the end be the very things that have the biggest result. I think people like Mother Theresa get that and everything they do is saturated with an understanding of the potential good each small effort could do in the world.

I bet that even those things done with a certain amount of foot-dragging can make a difference. You know what I am talking about – the things you do because you know in your heart they are right even though it just about kills you to do it. Being nice to someone who has done you a wrong. Having patience when it would be easier to just yell. Giving money to someone on the street when there is a chance you might be getting scammed. Jewels in your crown, baby.

Hard to remember that though.

If I could only remember to live this way more often, well, I would be so pleased with myself. Probably, I would gloat a bit over that heavenly tiara – meager as it must be in my case. However, in the whirl of the everyday it is a constant struggle to remember this basic little concept. Living life with grace and caring is often tough to do but it is a worthy goal. I am plodding in my own simple way towards it. This may take a while.

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