Last week I said good-bye to one of my dearest friends, a woman who has been a sister to me for nearly 30 years. She was married to one of my closest friends, a man who was like family to me from the moment we met. The sadness and intense grief that I have been feeling has started to give way to a feeling of gratitude that I had the great pleasure of knowing and being close to this woman for so many years. I have been considering the things I have learned from her and how even as she began to face her death, she continued to be a miraculous inspiration to me and to so many others. Until the very end, my friend was a loving example of focusing on being in the moment.
When Linda was diagnosed with the disease that would ultimately take her life, it was clear that she would have a tough road ahead. While it is fair to say that none of the rest of us expected that she would only be with us for six more weeks, perhaps she knew. She made a point of asking me to come for a visit. I went, of course, at a moment’s notice, wondering how I would be able to provide her with enough comfort and support to help her through this difficult time and her significant physical setbacks.
What I didn’t expect, however, was how much life and power she was determined to share with me during my visit. We were fortunate enough to spend two full days together. On the very first morning that I was there, she woke up and announced that we were going to visit the new building by Santiago Calatrava located at the World Trade Center. She hadn’t seen it yet and she wanted to go. It took us close to an hour to get there from where we were staying, but determined she was, and the building proved spectacular indeed. Calatrava’s inspiration was the image of a child releasing a white winged bird, and the only thing that rivaled the beauty of his creation that day was the look of sheer joy that seeing it brought to my friend.
We spent hours later that day looking at photos of her life, and celebrating how much fun she’d had and the wonderful things that she had done and seen. She talked to me about how kind and loving people were, reveled in the fact that she had the most devoted friends, and marveled at the fact that even strangers had stopped her on the street during her difficult recent days to say that they hoped she would be ok. I found it so uplifting that she wanted to share with me her experiences with the kindness of strangers, and her words made it clear that even as we spend our days dealing with problems that range from annoyances to tragedies, there is simple love and beauty to be found at any given moment.
On one of her final days, she called me to say that she was having the loveliest visit with her sister and that she wanted my family and me to know how much she loved us. I was struck by the fact that her words were once again laced with tones of awe and gratitude, first for the beautiful weather of the day, then for the fun she was having with her sister, and ultimately for the lifetime of joy that she had shared with us. I was blown away that with all she had to be worried about, she was still able to be in the moment enough to enjoy her day and to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the people she loved so very much.
I am beyond blessed to have counted this woman among my dearest friends. All of us who ultimately gathered to celebrate her life spoke in unison of the immense power of how she lived it, greeting each day with an infectious energy and passion that impacted everyone she touched. But I was lucky enough to be left with Linda’s greatest lesson of all: that there is love, beauty and simplicity to be found in any moment, if only we allow ourselves to find that moment. It is not always easy for me to “be” in the moment. I worry about things, big and small, I try to structure, I plan ahead, sometimes very far ahead. And while I value these aspects of my personality, Linda made me recognize that while rushing to make it to my next appointment, I might have walked right by that lovely white flower.
In tribute to Linda, I am going to dedicate the rest of this year to being more present in the moment, and to finding that moment each and every day. It might take some effort on certain days, I’m sure. But each time I find myself feeling stressed or angry or caught up in the throes of life’s annoyances, I am going to take a step back, even for a second. I am going to look for that sunbeam, that pretty bird, or maybe that passing smile from the stranger holding the door for me and I will think of my friend. Won’t you join me in finding those moments this year? I can’t imagine a better legacy than for each of us to find moments of love, joy and wonder in every day.