What is a Life?

Live for something.  Do good, and leave behind you a monument of virtue that the storm of time can never destroy. Write your name in kindness, love, and mercy, on the hearts of thousands you come in contact with year by year; you will never be forgotten. No, your name, your deeds, will be as legible on the hearts you leave behind as the stars on the brow of evening. Good deeds will shine as the stars of heaven.  ~Chalmers~

I originally posted this two years ago and, although I have tweaked it, I think it is still a good question to ask ourselves.

What is a life?  What gives it meaning?  The answer to this question will be as unique as each of us is, different for everyone.  This was the question posed to me by a dear friend a few years back who was dying from a rare genetic disorder, one that neurologically was stealing her body from her bit by bit, a disease that no doctor would diagnose until after her autopsy was performed.  During her darkest times she would question her value to society, to her family and friends, and to herself, a legitimate question coming from a gifted artist and musician who had slowly lost the use of her body.  For those of us blessed to have known her, what she gave each of us grew exponentially as her illness progressed.

Those whose journey it is to experience a chronic illness may have the most to offer, particularly in the depth and breath of the valuable lessons they can teach us.  My beloved friend Barbara  (my anam cara) suffered greatly before she passed not quite two years ago.  Through all her suffering she wore the face of courage well and taught those honored to be her family and friends such meaningful life lessons.  At times I wished I could just sit by her side with a tape recorder so I could remember everything she shared with me, every last word. Her concern for the rest of humanity, both people and animals, her beautiful artwork, done on the computer by using only her big toe when her hands betrayed her, and how in tune she was with nature were truly inspiring.  I pray that I could have that same grace if faced with her struggles.

For us, living the gypsy life and traveling gives our life meaning, experiencing the beauty of new places and different cultures, meeting people who have become friends, touching lives and having others touch ours, breathing in nature and soaking in her spectacular vistas and nurturing solitude.  For others, happiness is the stability of a home base, feeling more anchored in a community. Our differences enrich those around us.

One observation Terry and I made, both in Costa Rica and Mexico, is that many locals residents we spoke to are truly happy, even with so very little of a material or monetary sense.  Values certainly appear to be different in developing and third world countries, where basic needs are often times out of reach.  This certainly makes a life take on a whole new perspective and was a constant reminder to us that happiness and a truly remarkable life can be made without a lot of “stuff”.

When I look around me, to those who have so little, to those in physical and emotional pain, given the state of the world at present, my hope and prayer for all of us is that we can find the meaning in our present experiences and share what we have to offer with others.  I have come to realize that being of service to others in small ways brings me great joy and that just may be my calling in this life.

We all walk this same earth together; better that we not be alone in our journey but rather reach out and take another’s hand.  What a beautiful life this could offer.

Below is a slide of some photos taken during our journey through this life.  Enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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57 thoughts on “What is a Life?

  • A very special Paint Your Landscape presentation LuAnn. It touched my heart in a very special way on this, my 77th Birthday. Your special friend Barbara has certainly left a legacy of positive thoughts for the rest of us to consider in our journey through life. Thanks so much for your message today. Roger & Gayl

  • This is wonderful to read…yet again it has touched me deeply. Barbara was truly a friend, more than a friend, who left her mark on your life. The world is a better place because of both of you. Love you much!

  • Wow, that was/is very touching. It’s wonderful to have a friend in your life, that can, in some ways, teach you things about life that you may not have thought about before. Thank you, my dear friend.

  • A few years ago .. well about ten now .. my ex-wife’s nan started complaining about back pain and she was never one to complain about anything. She started asking me for some of my pain killers. So I was giving them to her, as I couldn’t stand to see this old woman in pain. She didn’t let it get her down though.

    Looking back, she knew what was coming. When my kids were born, she used to say to my parents – can I hold them first, I din’t know how long I’ve got. So my parents would let her hold the kids first. She was a lovely woman, a lot better than my hag of a nan. One of the nicest people you could ever want to meet.

    Everybody in her town liked her. No that’s not right, every body in her town LOVED her. They all used to call her Nanny Dot. My kids called her Nanny NooNoo after the Teletubbies.

    Then she was taken in to hospital to have a test done on her back. That was on the Friday, and she was really spritely. On the Saturday, we were woken up at just after 7. My ex-mother-in-law had been trying to call us since about 5am. Nanny Dot died during the night.

    When they did the autopsy, she had cancer. Kidneys, liver, lungs. She knew! You can’t have that amount of cancer and not know. Even in her most painful times, when I had an argument with her and went off to ask her dead husband how the hell he put up with her did she phase and call life anything but good. Everything was good to her. And I am proud that she was part of my life.

  • Beautiful post, LuAnn; very, very touching.
    I also loved your images of travel. I shall take my ‘touched’ heart and leave your lovely blog with a smile, and a deep sense of gratitude for understanding the depth of a friend.

  • I can’t agree more. The best part of giving is when I don’t know I am really doing. If we would just take time out of our day and say hello, thank you, how are you, how can I help you, etc., this world would be such a different place to live.
    I so admire those with much less than I and make more of every minute than I do. They teach more than I could ever learn out of any book. I strive to do better each day, and ask God to help with my struggle to be a better person.

    • I love reading your posts and your comments Marsha. I hope to meet you one day as I just know what a good person you are. Safe travels to you and Paul. Enjoy your time with family in Texas. 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing your moving stories and taking us to your travel journey. Traveling like you do is a great way to let mind be challenged and spirit be free.

    • Barbara was truly my anam cara (soul friend). I will carry her with me always. I just love the harbor seals. When I look at their beautiful faces, they seem to be smiling. 🙂

  • Enjoyed your post and loved the slide show.
    It was a beautiful reminder of so many places that we had been and a motivation to visit the others.

    I think that you must be one of those who makes every second count.

  • What a beautiful, thought provoking post LuAnn! We too have noticed the difference in happiness quotients between the developed and third world cultures! There certainly is a lesson there.
    Enjoyed the fabulous slideshow 🙂

  • LuAnn this is truly an excellent piece. More than that I cannot say because it would take up too much space here. Suffice it to say there is love,compassion,giving and sharing in every single word you write my most dear friend! Penny 🙂

  • Sometimes those with less know how to live and enjoy what matters most. A lesson lots of us can take from that.

    Looks like an RV is the way to live!
    Great post & wonderful photos!

  • This post touched me deeply… your words to remind us of what’s truly important in this life of ours. And your pictures in the slideshow were truly marvelous. The one that particularly impressed me was the shot of Crater Lake. You managed to find a unique view in a place where most shots tend to look very much the same. The same might be said of the Sequoia. Your blog is becoming one to treasure.

  • What a touching post and stunning slide show. I often wonder how those special individuals (Barbara) maintain such strength and courage against unbelievable adversity.

    We’re in Page AZ….after a challenging month, we finally hit the road. Next week – Sedona. Any recommendations? Tomorrow we’ll be boondocked for a night at Lake Powells shores and without a boost, don’t expect internet. Then off to the Grand Canyon to weather out the storm this weekend.

    It’s amazing to be on the road again. My stress is slowly subsiding 🙂

    • Although we lived in Sedona for several years, we never camped there. When we came back to Sedona last year to visit friends we stayed at Dead Horse State Park in Cottonwood, a few miles outside Sedona. We really enjoyed it there. Here is their link if you want to check it out: http://azstateparks.com/Parks/DEHO/index.html

      If you have not been to Sedona before and want some suggestions for hikes or other things to do, let me know. 🙂

      • Ingrid, here are some suggestions while in Sedona (don’t recall if you said you had been there before):
        1. Oak Creek Brewery in Tlaquepaque (upscale shopping area in Sedona) if you like beer. They also have good food. Window shop as well in Tlaquepaque.
        2. Javelina Cantina for Mexican food (Hillside Shopping Center). Also good place to window shop at Hillside.
        3. Coffee Pot Restaurant has great omelets for breakfast as does the Airport Restaurant (fun to sit and watch the planes come in with having breakfast).
        4. Chapel of the Holy Cross – beautiful chapel built into the red rocks
        5. Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon or just take a drive up Oak Creek Canyon. The views are fabulous.
        6. Pink Jeep Tours if you want to take a 4-wheel drive jeep tour. We would recommend the Broken Arrow tour – great fun.
        7. Hanonki Indian Ruins
        8. Cathedral Rock is beautiful and very spiritual (you can also hike it)

        If you are up for some hiking, here is a good link that lists many: http://www.greatsedonahikes.com. We have done most of them and there really isn’t a bad hike but here are some of our favorites in the easy to moderate categories:
        Easy: Fay Canyon, Boynton Canyon, Bell Rock, Cowpies Hike
        Moderate: Airport Loop, Brins Mesa, Broken Arrow, Courthouse Butte Loop, Doe Mountain, Secret Canyon

        Just a few suggestions. Let me know if you would like any others. Safe travels and enjoy! 🙂

      • Wow, thank you so much. Perfect! Currently boondocked north of Page on Lake Powell’s shores waiting out the storm. 50 mph gusts….we be a rockin and not in a fun way. Internet not good, so holding off any blogging for a while. Could use a boost….taking notes from Nina’s blog.

        Thank you again for taking the time to let me know about Sedona. Hope San Diego is treating you well!

      • Good luck with the storm…stay safe. Glad to be of service and if you can think of any other Sedona questions, don’t hesitate to ask. San Diego always treats us well. 🙂

  • This is just terrific to read, to take in. It’s good you resurrected it, retweaked it. This is just precious stuff – and I love the opening quote.

  • The question should probably be asked every morning when we get up. Perhaps we don’t have to write or rewrite an essay about it everyday…lol…but just a few little thoughts as one does some morning stretches in bed. As we move to get the kinks out of our muscles before rising, we should get the kinks out of our minds too.

    Oh dear! I am always giving advice to others. Now I will feel guilty if I don’t do it myself. 😦

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