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!

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