Thursday, December 15, 2005

A wild and precious life

Yesterday, we laughed and we cried. A lot. We did a lot of both, which was sorely needed. The church was mobbed, and quiet except for the sniffling, which began almost immediately. Darcy had planned the service and asked her neighbor, a woman who was recently selected to run the Maine Council of Churches, to lead it. It was full of poetry, which Darcy loved, including several poems by Mary Oliver. And it began with music -- a selection of songs that her partner, Steve, chose for her. I had a hard time not sobbing as each song came on.

First was "At Last (My Love Has Come Along)." Next was "Save Me" by Aimee Mann, with the chorus "Won't you save me from the ranks of the freaks who have never loved anyone." And then the one that did me in: a live recording of "Something in the Way She Moves" by James Taylor, which begins "Something in the way she moves, or looks my way, or calls my name/ that seems to leave this troubled world behind... And I feel fine anytime she's around me now, she's around me now almost about all the time./ And if I'm well you can tell she's been with me now.She's been with me now quite a long, long time and I feel fine."

I'll spare you the blow-by-blow of the service, but amazing moments included hearing Darcy's beloved grandmother talk about their shared love of poetry, and the games they would play with Emily Dickinson's poems; she then recited from memory two or three that Darcy particularly liked. And Steve gave the most honest, beautiful euology I can ever remember hearing; he talked about how they met, when he fell in love with her, and when the work of the relationship began. He talked about fights they had, and the fact that Darcy would always return ater storming out (sometimes in her electric wheelchair) with a smile on her face. And he talked about Sam, their sweet son, who was in his dad's arms for much of the service.

Somehow, there is a recording of Darcy reading one of Oliver's most famous poems, The Summer Day; the service closed with that recording. Hearing her beautiful voice, unaffected by the ALS, brought the tears again. And the poem's message, which was the message of the entire service, really hit me hard.

Darcy's fervent wish for us all is that we learn to live intentionally, to take pleasure in every moment. Steve read something she'd written to that effect, which included lines such as "Don't waste time eating food you don't like, or drinking cheap beer. Don't watch television. Don't stay in a relationship you know is wrong."

I have never been good at living in the moment -- I am a planner, always thinking about the next thing on the to-do list or the next challenge ahead. Last night, though, I resolved to try to be more like Darcy, to take advantage of the time I have, to cut down on the multi-tasking (and perhaps even the TV-watching... not sure about that one), to put more effort into connecting with friends and family. I don't want to lose these hard-earned lessons.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean~
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down~
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
-Mary Oliver