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Well, this is it. My new life. Over the weekend we buried his ashes in a puddle of watery mud and had his memorial service. Family and friends who came for his service have returned to their everyday lives. Everywhere I look I see reminders that reduce me to a tearful ball of gratitude. I had dreaded this weekend, but it was everything I could have hoped for and more. Exhausting. Overwhelming. Affirming. Tearful. Happy.  Surrounded by extended family and friends, we gave him a truly loving send-off.

I have always found memorial services fascinating. As different people share their stories and memories, we learn things about our loved ones we never knew or appreciated. As Paul observed of Jesus, “if we once judged him by human standards, we no longer do so.” My husband’s passing allows me to look beyond his all too human frailties to the many ways he positively impacted our lives, leaving me wondering why I was so impatient and critical at times; why it was easier to focus on his failings than his successes.  

One thing is clear as I step into my new life of widowhood. Life will be what I make it. He showed us that what truly matters is the way we choose to respond to the the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, not whether we experience them. One of the consistent themes that kept weaving its way through the stories and observations folks made was his quiet acceptance and courage in face of a chronic, debilitating, and painful disease. He rarely complained, but faced life with quiet courage, doing what he could with what he had. As he grew older and weaker, he was forced to accept more and more help, but he did it with humor and grace. 

Perhaps, in retrospect, his greatest gift was showing us how to gratefully receive help and give up control. In a world where we perceive power and influence as the ability to be self sufficient and to dominate and control others, he demonstrated a difference kind of power; the power of being true to himself. The power of living with, not against. The power of accepting limitations as the stuff of life. Of all his gifts, and he left us with many, he showed us  how to live the good life. The good life, he demonstrated, is being like a stream,  that when encountering barriers in its journey toward the sea,  finds new channels and pathways to achieve its goal. Or as the refrain to the hymn “On Eagle’s Wings” puts it:  And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings/ Bear you on the breath of dawn/Make you to shine like the sun/And hold you on the palm of His hand.”

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