Life is short. Make haste to be kind. Be swift to Love.
Have you ever watched a line of marching ants? I have. Do you know what I noticed? No matter what happened to an ant’s marching buddy—washed away, stepped on, became somebody’s meal, or other horror, the line of ants kept moving, barely missing a step. As a child, I thought how cruel for the ants not to stop and try to help their ant buddy or at least stop to grieve.
After many years as a hospital and long-term-care chaplain I have been witness to family and friends stopped by the grief of losing a loved one. Over the years, I too have lost family and friends and have been immobilized as I mourned and grieved.
Nevertheless, life marched along. Although the business of living was the same, we were not. Our lives were forever changed. As we are humans and not ants, there must be another option besides a mindless march with repressed grief or opting out of Life’s march altogether. How do we honor the life and love we lost yet move forward with our lives, as we must?
Over the years, I learned to integrate the losses into my life. Grief ebbed and flowed. It took time. I sought avenues to honor my loved ones, cherish our memories, and discover new ways to step forward once again into life.
Over Christmas this year I lost my best friend, Edythe Stromme. We’d shared a glorious friendship for 21 years. Her family welcomed me into their sacred journey. I was able to be with them during her last five days on hospice. I was there to hear Edythe’s final breath.
I was devastated by this loss. I cried to my family, “I do not know how I will get through this.” I couldn’t imagine how to integrate the loss of Edythe.
In a time of quiet and of thanksgiving for Edythe I recalled how each time we were together we declared it a time and place of “Kindlandia.” A place where only kind people and actions were allowed. When something on the news was dastardly, we joked, “Well, they won’t be invited into Kindlandia!” Edythe’s tag line on her emails was, “Spread Kindness.” Mine has been, “Make haste to be kind.” or “Live Kindness.”
I remembered her with a prayer I’d found especially meaningful in memorial services, “Thank you for the warmth and love Edythe offered us and the strength and peace she brought us in her own unique way. May all that was good and special in our life with Edythe continue to be cherished by us.”
Instead of grieving over phone calls and visits with Edythe no longer possible, I decided to integrate Edythe’s memory into my life by creating a blog, “Kindlandia,” dedicated to her and the value of kindness we both cherished. Edythe’s legacy of love and creativity reached across the globe. Kindness was her cornerstone.
Ah, and the ants? What I, as a child, interpreted as cruel disregard, I now realize, as an adult, was the instinct for their species to survive. The surprise and gift for me is how those determined ants have inspired me to move forward, back into the march of life.