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January 29, 2023

Window on the World Column: I Shall Not Pass This Way Again

By Lucy Jensen, Soledad Columnist

“I shall not pass this way again. I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow-creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” —Stephen Grellet (1773-1855)

None of us know what happens when we pass on to another place or planet. That is one of the largest mysteries of this universe. I always thought that my baby sister of all people would have the ability to come back and tell me what happens when your earthly eyes close for the last time and your heart stops beating.

But since I see her these days in other entities, like dragon flies and butterflies, and I get a whiff of her essence on the air and catch sight of her shadowy reflection in the water; I’m sure her current state of “being” is not able to communicate with me in that way. She can definitely “reach” me, but not in the same way. She is often just around the corner from where I am; but I have come to accept that she is no longer of this world. For whatever it’s worth to the world at large, that is what I have surmised thus far.

There’s something about a nasty illness that gives you a sense of haste and purpose portrayed in the above quote; even more so if your disease is terminal. Rosie rushed her way through the last years of her life with absolute purpose. She would try new things — pottery, screen-printing, you name it — to keep her creative juices going. But once it started to be less than an obsession for her, it was instantly dropped. She had no time to waste in the world.

But, come to think of it, she was like that her whole life. It was as if, when she was born, she had a second sense that her time on earth would be very limited; so, she had better get going and make the best of it.

But isn’t that a good way to live? Live as if you are dying, soon; which of course we all are. We’ll never have enough time. Don’t waste time, bemoaning your lot with your eyes turned inward. Strive to be happy every day and make others equally so; whether man or beast. This time of year especially, there is a lot of lip service paid to doing good for others and then there are the people that actually do the good for others (and they mostly do it quietly). Look around you! Little free-food pantries are nicely stocked in town for those that need it. Even book and toy stations are established. Churches set up food drives.

No one judges — take what you need, be happy it is there, pay it forward when you can. Help your neighbor! Do they have small children to feed and reduced means to do so? Could you make them a pot of posole or bake a chicken? That might be an enormous thing to a family in need. Please be kind to your planet. Recycle where you can, water the plants and the trees, feed the birds, save the bees. Rescue the animals! There is so much to do if you turn your outlook in the correct direction. You are passing through only the one time. Make it count.

If I was a religious gal, I would hope that, once I close my eyes for the last time, every single one of my beloved pets would be able to greet me at the pearly gates — or, in my case, more likely, the rusty old iron ranch gate — with lots of barks, meows, neighs and more at our reconciliation party and they would be so happy to see me again. My life’s work has been dedicated to them; they inspire me every day to try and be more how they see me.

I still rescue other lives where I can. I will trap, alter and release. I’ll always pick up a stray dog in the street, or help fund a surgery, or do what I can to make a small difference in the larger scheme of things. I’m not tooting my own horn; I’m just sharing what I do to make my journey through more significant. If we all did small things with big hearts, what a wonderful place this would be!

This year has been so taxing for so many people on multiple levels. Thousands in the world have passed from a horrid disease, families have been torn apart. There are missing place settings at tables across the planet. Others have been unable to work, or their work has gone away. They are afraid they might lose their home, be forced to move their family. They fear that their children will be hungry, that they will fail in their schooling.

So much uncertainty, too much anxiety and a lack of clarity and direction pervades. These are unprecedented times. We must bond together as human beings and look out for one another, ease each other’s journeys, be kinder than necessary. If we cannot do that, then what really are we good for?

A dear friend of mine is suffering a wretched disease, when she should be enjoying her friends and family during her well-earned retirement. She is not one of the complainers of the world. “I will give life my all until my last breath,” she tells me. “Lots to do.” And she’s right. There is lots to do, while we are still here. Thank you, Ellen, for reminding me of that simple fact. Let’s give our lives our all, while we can. Our passage is never guaranteed to be a long one; the pathway seldom a smooth ride. Ellen, this story is dedicated to you.

“To make life a little better for people less fortunate than you, that’s what I think a meaningful life is. One lives not just for oneself but for one’s community.” —RBG


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