“You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can decide how you’re going to live now.”
—Joan Baez, Folksinger
When my daughter died at thirty-five, in the midst of my grief, I had an irrational recurrent guilt that I hadn’t bought her more hot fudge sundaes. She loved them so, but in a lifetime of illness and heart problems, her weight was always her bane, and so hot fudge sundaes were few and far between for her.
When she died, all I could think about was the joy she’d left untasted in her short life. Like the women on the Titanic who passed up dessert that fateful night to keep their figures trim. If only we knew how short life is and how suddenly the end can come, what would we do differently for ourselves and those we love? What hot fudge sundaes of the soul would we lavish or allow, what joys and pleasures now foresworn, would we welcome and revel in?
I’m told the Koran says Allah will call us to account for allowable pleasures not indulged in: I suspect that the allowable pleasures for Muslim women are singularly fewer than those for Muslim men, but still, you have to love Allah for the thought.
What if the key to spiritual enlightenment is the ability to truly love life? To savor this glorious, abundant earth and its pleasures, to love wildly and live with every cell, at the same time we try to serve the planet and our fellow humans whenever the opportunity presents itself? To see, taste, touch, feel, love, laugh at, suck up, drink in, think about, help with, revel in…
What if the most spiritual gift we could give back to God were a list of our unmitigated joys… of all we’re grateful for and thrilled by even in the midst of trials.
In the sturm und drang of life, the giant treadmill of things yet undone, it’s so easy to let the little pleasures slip by in the quest for the big ones. When we’ll be rich, thin, healthy, loved… when we’ll be promoted or elected President… when our children will be grown or our home paid for or our unfinished business, finally complete.
Another Way to Go
What if the true reward of advanced age is that it’s a time when we finally allow ourselves all we’ve denied ourselves for a lifetime? When we allow:
… our time to be lavished on pleasure, not just duty.
… our voices to shout out truths long repressed by the need to succeed or seduce, impress or placate or simply fit in.
… our happiness to replace the constant urge to strive for success.
… ourselves to cry out against injustice, against sorrow, against pain, against encroaching darkness.
… ourselves to enjoy moments of quiet inactivity, that would once have been filled with “To Do” lists of tasks yet to be accomplished.
And what if we could do that now? This very day? What if we didn’t have to wait for old age to free us for joy, a tiny touch of indolence, and a hot fudge sundae when it’s called for?
I think my sweet Cee Cee – rollicking, irreverent, compassionate, kick-over-the-traces, laugh-at-life Cee Cee – would be the first to tell you to live today with all your might. Taste, touch, feel, love, laugh at, suck up, drink in, think about, help with, revel in.
Tomorrow is iffy. But today, is still, as Thomas Aquinas might say, ‘A potentiality of being’. If we’re very lucky, we can ad some joy to it.
© Cathy Cash Spellman/The Wild Harp & Co. Inc 2011