Monday, November 26, 2007

So this angel walks into a bar...

Sometimes my life feels like a bad movie -- so trite that you almost can't script it.

Scene 1: Clearing the Clutter

Yesterday, I had a great day, working on cleaning out more clutter from the house and the garage, culminating in a trip with a very full car to Goodwill in mid afternoon. I was supposed to be working on my audio equipment, getting it to work reliably, but that seemed really hard, and I was having fun (!) moving things into the car, and reorganizing the garage, so I kept putting it off. Finally I had a carful, went to Goodwill and dropped it off.

Scene 2: Phone Call

On my return, guilt led me to my desk, where I happened to notice the message light blinking on my phone.

There was a message from a friend, several hours old, saying that a mutual good friend, whom I'll call Charlotte, was in the hospital on her death bed.

Flashback:

Charlotte was the soul of compassion, and the essence of grace, a beautiful spirit in a beautiful body. Though she had not lived a particularly easy life, a single mother who worked really hard at a variety of businesses (from running an in-home day care so she could be there for her toddler, to a jewelry store, to a small therapy practice) and jobs (HR and office support) to support and raise her wonderful (now grown) daughter, she left everything she touched more beautiful and more peaceful. She always knew exactly what to say to ease suffering, always had a smile, a gentle laugh and a positive, philosophical attitude for the more difficult parts of life -- the broken hearts, the illnesses, the financial hardships, including her own. At points when I was low, I always knew I could call her, and I'm sure her other friends knew that, too.

I knew Charlotte was sick, had, in fact, been increasingly sick over the last 10 years. But I'd seen her a few weeks ago, and she'd been in good spirits, saying she was getting better after a real scare.

Scene 2, continued

Though I returned the call immediately, it was too late. Charlotte had already left her body. Had I heard the phone ring, I would have barely had time enough to get to the hospital (an hour away) to say a brief goodbye.

Apparently she had left her body peacefully, attended by a Tibetan Buddhist lama and several good friends. And I know, given the state of her physical body, that it was a good choice to leave now, and gift of compassion to herself. Charlotte, who was always so giving to others, had finally given herself the gift of freedom.

I could only have a short conversation with Ann, the woman who'd called me, because she was too teary. Ann is a very strong woman, and I could hear her trying to stay strong and practical -- but she couldn't. The pain was too fresh. We settled on me calling the next day to get Charlotte's daughter's phone number to see how I can help.

Scene 3: Conversation in the kitchen

So I came upstairs into the kitchen, where my husband was seated at the kitchen table, reading email on his laptop. As I entered, he said cheerily, "Hey, I've got something to show you," to which I replied, "Charlotte died." I caught him up on the news, and then he said, "What I was just about to show you is kind of the opposite of that." There were photos of his cousin's brand new baby girl!

So that's when it hit me... life on earth is kind of like this big saloon. You enter through the swinging doors (take a body), have a drink, some food, hook up, break up, maybe play a game of poker, or pour a beer for someone else, watch the dramas unfolding around you, and leave again through those same swinging doors. Life is not about the tables and the chairs in the bar (clearing the clutter), it's about the angels who come and go.

1 comment:

Victoria said...

Hollis- I love the saloon analogy! It's an awesome reminder that we are ALL angels in human suits and when we remember that, things seem to get a bit easier. The main thing that I got from your post is that it's really important to pay attention to people while they are here. Better than to silently admire someone, tell them how they inspire you and let them know you see their beauty and contribution to life on the planet...