Suzanne’s Tattoo

I had no idea, last year, when I scrawled  I Want to Live Alive  in my journal, that it would become Suzanne’s life theme and mantra. She cherished the words and set out to make them true. She set out to live her last days fully alive. 389f6f01c8011417c02cc55e05b4ecfa

 While cancer loomed, she chose to push it aside, even when discomfort became a constant reminder. She was determined to enjoy the chapter she had left- and she made it her mission to teach others to do the same.

In her effort to live alive, Suzanne approached her days methodically. She simply did the next thing- whether mundane, like organizational tasks, cleaning and laundry – or more purposeful things – like having healing conversations, and orchestrating intentional time with family and friends. She did it all with excellence and with all senses engaged.

She also threw herself into her Bible reading and gathered strength and perspective to face the rugged terrain ahead. All the while, she looked for ways to serve others, and nudge them to live more fully alive.

In the end, with her beloved husband and family at her side, Suzanne faced forward and did the last thing on her list. She crossed to the other side as a representative of faith, love and grace. While we say goodbye to her physical presence and loving care, we will never be without her tattoo –  her firm instructions to us: We are we to celebrate her life, but we must also celebrate our own. Live Alive! Rest in peace, beautiful woman. Your life has been a lesson to cherish.

If you would like to read the original blog post which was an inspiration to Suzanne in the last year of her life, follow this link:  I Want To Live Alive

I want to live alive…

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Yesterday, I smuggled a four pack of Cabernet, a dark, salty chocolate bar, and a couple of wine glasses into the hospital to visit my friend, who is battling cancer. She was delighted that I actually did the brazen thing she suggested, and we proceeded to spent the cold, drizzly afternoon in her private room, talking about the past, the present and the future.

As we sat sipping wine and nibbling chocolate, we shared some painful things and asked some big questions, which neither of us have the answers for. She has decided to stop the chemo treatments — unless the next specialist tells her that a significant amount of time will be added to her life, if she will endure another round.  She hasn’t given up — she just wants to trust God for the outcome.

She doesn’t want to live sick. She wants to live alive.
She is making plans for whatever time is left — who to see and what to do — whether there are many days and years left— or few.

She is brave and new. Her hair is maybe a 1/4 inch long all over her head and she sits bold and braless, laughing out loud in her hospital bed. She is forced to stay there until she is safe to move, for fear of dislodging a huge blood clot looming just under her rib cage. She is as human as a human can be, there is no pretense — and she is gorgeous.

Her face is all I can see today — our hearts are connected and I am in constant prayer. I find myself looking over the landscape of my life. How would I spend my last days? I want to live alive.

I would make my last days lovely for my family
I would light all the candles and bring all the flowers in.
I would saturate the air with beautiful music.

I would stop.
I would stop and listen.

I would wear expressions that penetrate the skin and make their way to the soul.
I would look long into the eyes of those I love and they would experience acceptance.
They would remember and know how they are valued and treasured.
I would give meaningful hugs — like the one I got when I left the hospital yesterday.

I would eat food around the table, laughing with those I love.
I would know that sharing a meal together is sacred.
I would not rush away.

I would understand that things are things.
They are only precious when they are a part of our traditions.

I would savor.
I would not gulp.
My actions and activities would have meaning.

My bed would be luscious.
I would have very few clothes in my closet.
I would not worry about what I look like —
I would worry more that I might miss moments pretending to be pretty,
and neat,
and all put together.

I would learn to breathe what is.
I would not to dwell on what isn’t.

I would forgive.
I would ask forgiveness of those I have hurt and rejected.
I would forgive those that have hurt and rejected me.
I would see the pain that motivates the walking wounded.
I would look through all the contorted manifestations,
and I would find the wounds,
and touch them with God’s love.

But.
In my last days, would I forgive myself?
Would I go to the pain that motivates me?
Would I look with grace upon my own contorted manifestations?
Would I allow God’s love to permeate and heal what hurts deep inside?
Would I do that in my last days?

Could I do that today?

 

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Photo by: Eugene Nikiforov