I read “Cry Pain Cry Hope” by Elizabeth O’Connor many years ago, a beautiful gem of a book. This story has stayed with me and I have retold it many times.
“A legend about St. Francis tells that he was hoeing his garden one afternoon when someone asked him to speculate on what he would do if he knew he was going to die that day. “I would hoe my garden,“ he replied.”
This story speaks to my desire to live intentionally and make good choices about where I put my energy, my time, my heart. It also resonates with my conviction that ‘everyday’ (seemingly mundane) tasks are not necessarily so, that its how we approach what we do that infuses it with heart.
I have just been away for 3 beautiful days with a group of 9 other women (with 19 children between us!) and I was reflecting on how, having gone over the hump of 40, I am more aware of my mortality. As we discussed this, it seemed clear that being aware of the end of our time on earth is a good thing…it focuses the mind and the heart like no other. It reminded me of the quotes that went round the internet when Apple founder, Steve Jobs, died:
“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
There we have it – parallel wisdom across the ages from two most strikingly different humans.
Now for some weeding…