That Which Persists

oak tree winter photo

Yesterday I walked a half mile to Starbucks with my dear friend Gail. It was an immense journey. Gail has had 6 strokes in the last 9 months. She lives in a constant present moment, which may be a spiritual ideal but presents  challenges when you cannot remember your address or how to turn on your computer. Let alone what year it is or who is president. 

But this blog is not about loss or suffering.  Or about her husband’s nobility as he rises to this new situation with dignity and compassion. This blog is about what has not changed: Gail’s luminous spirit.

During her long hospital stays, she was unfailingly gracious, thanking everyone who entered her room: aids, doctors, friends, family, therapists. Not knowing who anyone was, she smiled and said welcome.

Lying in that hospital bed, she was no longer an Executive Director, Academic or Philanthropist; she was bereft of all personas, stripped of  every identity. Helpless. And in that radical exposure, her deepest self was revealed: a self that is open, gracious and grateful.

It is a current mantra that we should live in the moment. But what if that moment is filled with terror? If every moment is a succession of fear, anguish, loss? For Gail, this is not so, although it certainly could be so, given that the strokes seem unpredictable and largely inexplicable.

Gail remains herself because she continues to say Yes. A deep and profound Yes that is not intellectual and not egotistical.  It is a Yes that comes from a deep core of goodness that is the signature of her being.

As we walked to Starbucks yesterday, I told her of my daughter’s recent engagement. Gail clapped her hands with delight, asking question after question. She was unable to see the photos on my phone, but she asked for detailed descriptions. Her face glowed. “This is so good,” she said. “I’m so happy. Nothing could be better than this. Thank you for this wonderful news. For this perfect day.”


 

An Oak Tree in Winter, Fox Talbot, 1842, Getty An Oak Tree in Winter, Fox Talbot, 1842, courtesy of  Getty Museum

After the Sixth Stroke, a poem about Gail

Bedside, a poem about Gail

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