Last week my mentor passed away from her battle with cancer. We have known this day was coming for a while now. I was able to process most of the loss prior to her passing and I admit there was relief that her painful struggle is complete. That we are no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop. It fell, with a soft thump, and I got to reflect on how this woman changed my life (not for the first time mind you). That is a different blog for a different day. Today I want to write about the life lessons I discovered at her memorial service.
You can be joyful no matter your circumstances, it really is a choice.
In her last few years of life, Linda was in a lot of physical pain. However, she always had a smile on her face when I saw her. In fact, though I suspected she was ill, I had no idea how ill until six months ago. She wasn’t stoic, she was joyful. She didn’t cry, “Why me?” and drown in her sorrow, which not many would have blamed her for doing. She stayed true to her purpose in this life and loved and supported her many friends and clients and found joy in doing her life’s work. Shortly before her death and while struggling with severe pain, she commented to her son how badly she felt for those people dying alone. She said “Look at all the wonderful friends and family I have surrounding me with love. I am so lucky, but I feel sad for all the people in world right now dying alone.”
Your belief system can be a source of strength and compassion, all while not taking anything away from those who share a different belief system.
In her life, she has always loved God and served God. The doctrine she followed changed over the course of her life from a strict Christian faith to a Hindu-based following of the Divine Feminine through Amma. Her love of God, in the many forms God has taken, has always been obvious to her friends and family. And anyone who knew her understood that, though your beliefs may differ from hers, she supported you and met you where you were without judgment and with the deepest compassion. (Okay, I already knew this about her, but the service was a beautiful illustration of this truth.)
It is possible to live life right; all you need is love.
Not any of us is perfect and I know Linda wasn’t either, but I think a successful life is when your memorial is a packed house; your son conducts the service that you wrote as a celebration of life with humor, sincerity and a few tears; your family is there and can’t say enough about how much they loved you, looked up to you and how you they will miss you in their lives; your ex-husband speaks with obvious admiration of your true purpose in life as helping others and then plays the piano for all the hymns and music in the service; and you end the service insisting the whole crowd sing a camp song, motions included, and everyone does. Perfection and not a dry eye in the house.
So my take away, from an emotional and wonderful weekend of basking in the energy and love of a woman I consider my inspiration, is this: be brave enough to live my life according to my beliefs, make sure love is the foundation of every decision, be kind, for everyone I meet is fighting an epic battle, and don’t forget to sing and laugh and dance.