Being Loved and Being Love

Being Loved and Being Love

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“We are born to love, we live to love, and we will die to love still more.”
— St. Joseph Cafasso

Some time ago, I read an article in which a hospice nurse shared five regrets patients voice most frequently in their last days. Now, while there is an element of grief present in these reflections, I hope that the wisdom they contain can nudge all of us to live life more fully – and lovingly – all the days of our lives. Here, then are what I would offer as five invitations:

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. This was the most common regret of all. Underneath it sits this truth: One way we love the God who formed and wonderfully made us is by coming home to ourselves and our unique giftedness and living our own lives fully. Is this not an essential part of what Jesus teaches when he says: “love your neighbor as yourself?”

I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. Every male patient of this nurse expressed this, and many women, too, revealing a God-given longing for balance: work and play . . . people and projects . . . motion and stillness . . . action and rest. In this Jesus leads us; he who “would withdraw to deserted places and pray,” and was so often found at table that some alleged he was too fond of food and wine! We do well to remember that Sabbath is a gift of love – for God, neighbor, and self.

I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. And with this comes the corollary: the courage to welcome others to do the same. The invitation here is to embrace the loving, challenging, and ongoing work of engaging in honest and healthy relationships. Such open and reciprocal communication is one of the ways we live into the biblical instruction to, “speak the truth in love.”

I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends. Underneath and behind this desire is this essential truth: We are created for loving relationship, and life together matters. So it is that we are created in the image and likeness of God, who exists in triune community. And so it is that Jesus taught us the two great commands, “You shall love the Lord your God . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I wish I’d let myself be happier. This reflection, which was quite common, nudges us toward seeing that happiness is a by-product of choices we make. With St. Francis we then pray: “grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

Truth is, it is by love that we are created, and it is in — and for — love that we live!

Tomato Seeds and Soul Tending

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I am a gardener. I find the process of tending plants – from seed to sprout, greenhouse to ground, flower to fruit – to be deeply nourishing to my soul. This has been profoundly true this season, as death claimed the life of a dear soul friend and gardening buddy just as she would have been starting tomato seeds (an endeavor at which she excelled). The task, as I see it, was left to me. Part of my grief work, this.

On Monday of the week called Holy, I filled seed trays with growing medium, tenderly pressed the seeds into said soil, applied appropriate amounts of water, and situated the seed-laden trays on the warming pad. I then immersed myself in the tasks and graces of the week . . . It was the morning of Holy Saturday when I next glanced toward the trays. The seeds had not only sprouted, but had grown too tall, too fast! And this on the very day of Pat’s memorial service. I vowed to replant, and did so the Monday after Easter.

It is an unsettling season, this. I do believe we all sense it . . . The replanting of my tomato seeds is, perhaps, symbolic. Unexpected was their rapid germination. And unnoticed in the midst of the Holy Week schedule. And so disappointing. I had hoped for better. For the memory of my friend . . . Life is uncontrollable. As is death. Seeds do have a life of their own. And I cannot even perfectly control the conditions . . .

So. The seed of truth. I am reminded – again – that I am not God. And I must forgive myself for that. And seek to remain present and engaged in the way things are. Mistakes made – own what is mine; release the rest. Tomato seeds and starts – tend what is; refrain from wishing for what is not. Rain on my “day off” – reflect; write; embrace it. And pay attention:

The deer twins, born last year, are back, grazing around the house once again – I will attend to their timing, they who embody the affirmation of “safe space” in the unfolding story of my journey with God.

The hummingbird has returned – spied resting on the power line in my line of sight during morning prayers. She, on break, invites me to remember the call to rest.

The lettuce is growing – the tomatoes are, too — and the peppers are living into their 4” pots . . . I shall dwell on the grace and wonder of life and its power over and through. In the seed, and in the interaction of soil, water, darkness, light, and heat with that seed, is the truth of life. Mysterious. Messy. Magnificently simple. Maddeningly complex . . . And monumentally victorious (remember the Easter proclamation).

Therefore – I trust. I listen. I replant. I tend. I pay attention. I do the next right thing. I hope. I love. I forgive. I live. Now.

Won’t you join me?

“Our only job is to cling to God with total trust.”    — Julian of Norwich