Mary Oliver challenged me with her poem, “Doesn’t everybody die at last and too soon? Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I enjoy poetry, quotations, research, nature, relationships, consulting, ministering, hobbies, communicating with you, and so much more. But I have not yet discovered my answer to Mary Oliver’s question.
Recently I officiated at a funeral and it was heartwarming to write a service that did answer it. Perhaps we’re too close to our own daily lives to see ourselves.
Each of us believes in the practice of ethics and fairness. Each of us loves wholeheartedly much of the time, and cautiously some of the time. For the most part, we see the world as a good place full of good people, each doing his and her best. Yet if we are to fully live this one wild and precious life, we're destined to have some winning moments, and we're likely to make both small and big mistakes. We're also likely to be called to forgive ourselves and to forgive others.
There will be loss and disappointment. We will be sad and we will cry. And even in uncomfortable situations with angry people who themselves are hurting — we will find things to be grateful for. It’s easy to see people’s extraordinary capacity for love and generosity. We feel it in their smiles and hugs and we hear it in the stories they share. Even in difficult circumstances we find ways to enjoy life — ways to laugh and to be playful.
“Doesn’t everybody die at last and too soon?” Yes and no. Here are some words of wisdom for us about how to live our “one wild and precious life.”
"To change one's life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions." — William James
"I held a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower, a tiny sliver of one hour. I dropped it carelessly, Ah! I didn't know, I held opportunity." — Hazel Lee
"I'm less interested in why we're here. I'm wholly devoted to while we're here." — Erika Harris
Here's the insight that best answers Mary Oliver's challenge.
“And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." — Abraham Lincoln