Notice What You Notice

I don’t know how to start this reflection because there is so much to say and at the same time not nearly words enough to say what is real and true.  My dear friend, Barbara, died on Tuesday morning. She died as she lived—peaceful and steeped in love.  Our lives were so entwined; it is hard to fathom this life without her. And yet, rather than feeling burdened by suffering, I am filled with gratitude.  For 23 years, I’ve been blessed by her presence and witnessed first hand how to live life to the fullest—she tapped into the wellspring of joy and generosity that bubbled up from her depths and flowed out to embrace us and countless others.  She never let the cancer she lived with for 27 years define her or prevent her from living with her heart wide open.

Love swallows up death, we proclaim.  Here and now, if we trust Jesus.  What does it look like to live life free of the fear of death? What does it mean to focus, not on the separation of death, but on the holy union of love we are drawn into that is eternal?  What is the deep joy being made available to us?  Author Anne Lamott describes it this way:

You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.

Barbara modeled how to live and inspired us to do the same.  She immersed us in ‘Barbara’s boot camp for living,’ without our realizing it.  As we came alongside her and one another in these last days, we recalled the many Barbara-isms such as ‘pull yourself together!’ or ‘notice what you notice.’  Barbara not only listened to each of us, she listened to life—she paid attention.  If something caught her eye, she’d wonder about what it might mean—a playful game full of meaning.  The more I notice what I notice, the more I realize Barbara—and all whom I love but see no longer—are right here with us, permeating our lives and inspiring us to dance with the limp.

A few days before her death, I ‘noticed that I noticed’ this particular song, These are the Days by 10,000 Maniacs, that seemed to capture the gift and blessing of Barbara for me:

These are days you’ll remember. 
Never before and never since, I promise, will the
whole world be warm as this.
And as you feel it, you’ll know it’s true that you are
blessed and lucky.
It’s true that you are touched by something that will
grow and bloom in you.

These are days you’ll remember. 

When May is rushing over you with desire to be part
of the miracles you see in every hour.
You’ll know it’s true that you are blessed and lucky.
It’s true that you are touched by something that will
grow and bloom in you.

These are days.

These are the days you might fill with laughter until
you break.
These days you might feel a shaft of light make its
way across your face.
And when you do you’ll know how it was meant to be.

See the signs and know their meaning. 
It’s true, you’ll know how it was meant to be.
Hear the signs and know they’re speaking to you, to

Whenever the sun falls on our faces, we’ll remember that we are blessed and lucky.  Walking along the lakefront after she died, four of us played Barbara’s game.  Noticing a single sock, a string of Mardi Gras beads and a huge bungee cord…we noticed and wondered, listening to our life.  I invite you to join in playing her ‘notice what you notice’ game…making meaning as you go and being part of the miracles you see.

Hope to see you Sunday,

Pastor Elizabeth