Last month, I wrote a post entitled “How Shall We Die”
I heard from a few readers about the impact that article had on them, including an old-time friend in Mexico who appreciated a new way to integrate her own sorrow about the state of the world, with its eco-systems collapses & social disintegrations.
Another dear friend, Ti Hallas, shared her own perspectives on the state of the world and was curious how I could still be so present in the world with the amount of grief it holds.
And all at once it came to me. Another heart friend died last year, Angela Aarts-Faris (that’s her at the top). It’s amazing how people keep on living inside of us and through us, teaching us and inspiring us, even after they die. Have you noticed that? What a gift.
Angela was a friend I first met when our children were in choir together almost 20 years ago. Over that time, we grew closer as I pulled together my favourite moms into a friend group as our children grew up. About a decade ago, we also started to spend some family holidays together and she became a second mother to my daughter.
Angela was always strong, sensible and spiritual. So when she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer 6 years ago, we were all devasted. Except Angela. She took every step of her journey with grace and in fact grew more translucent as she lived with her death prognosis and the weeks turns into months and then turned into years.
Angela made peace with death, every single day of her life. She spoke about how she lived with her diagnosis. The diagnosis and the prognosis didn’t keep her from living her life to the fullest. In fact, it was the opposite and quite intentional on her part. In fact, she lived more fully than I’ve seen most anyone else in my circle. She danced, she sang, she let us all know how much she loved us. She stayed close to nature and she stayed close to the angels.
She was also physically strong. She hiked most every day, she cooked beautiful meals, she dived into all the healing modalities – traditional and alternative.
When her health took a sharp turn last year, we as her community were surprised. Not Angela. She kept dreaming and visioning forward. The next trip she would take and the people she wanted to touch. As her body shrivelled away over a few short months, she stayed her ever-present self.
I saw her hours before she died. She was already in a coma and had lost so much of her body mass. She was barely there as the Angela I knew. But her love kept her magnetized. Her sister flew in from Ontario, and her dear husband journeyed with her right to the end. She was in her beloved home, with her beloved family and her beloved lake and nature as she passed.
I realize in hindsight that Angela provided me a model for what I mean when I talk about living with “How Shall We Die?” She gifted me (and you as I share her with you) – a way and evidence that we can still live our lives with dignity and communion almost because of our predicament.
You too may have examples in your life of people who knew their death was imminent and that knowledge gave them a way of living their lives you didn’t seem to have access to before you saw them. Can their example live on in you as your tribute to their example, to their suffering and to their love?
Every day that we wake up to, is resplendent with gifts. I pray I notice some of these gifts because in the noticing I rejoice. In my rejoicing, I bring more life. In the life, there is a more penetrative present moment and a vision of a journey to death and beyond full of grace, dignity and communion.
This is what I carry forward when I think about our human race and all the other species and life forms in disintegration at the moment. We can live forward with the same kind of grace, dignity and communion.
Will you join me in this vision?