While we say goodbye to 2012, I wanted to share a story about choosing joy in the midst of sadness and suffering. I didn’t think it could be done until I watched my friend and next door neighbor, Trudi, die last November. Trudi was Swiss and determined. Instead of a funeral, she chose a party for her closest friends and family.
Everyone who knew Trudi knows generosity of spirit was one of her greatest traits, and her choice to squeeze joy out of her final days is a constant reminder of how I’d like to be in this new year full of uncertainty for so many of us.
Uncertainty? Trudi would probably give me a quick shrug and smile if I asked her. What’s so uncertain about the present? I need to remember this and that presence is a great gift.
During a bedside visit in her final three weeks, Trudi told me about her last trip to the hospital. She tore off her heart monitor and IV, lay them neatly on the sheets and requested to call her daughter. At 88, she was through with the sirens and surgeries, the poking and prodding, the panicked and too frequent rescues from the paramedics. October 28 would be Trudi’s last ambulance ride. She had led an active and independent life. She wanted to come home to die with her family and friends surrounding her.
The doctors gave her three days. She gave herself three weeks. Trudi was ready to depart but not that ready. She had a plan— a beautiful, methodical, mystical plan to wake us up to joy with her death.
The morning after my husband and I moved into our house five years ago—newly engaged, we opened the front porch to find a huge basket filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, shiny green peppers, and a hand-written note from Trudi welcoming us. I was struck not just by Trudi’s sincerity and how beautiful the vegetables looked in the light of that September morning, but by the kindness of our new neighbor: the tiny Swiss woman with the sparkle in her blue eyes.
When I reached down to pick up the basket, I remember seeing yet another surprise: a small bundle of roses, freshly picked and de-thorned, wrapped in a wet paper towel and tinfoil. The kind of roses that smack you sideways with their ... Read More >