Happy New Year, dear reader! It brings me joy to know we’ll be traveling 2023 together. Before we begin our journey, though, I owe you an apology.
For more months than I want to tally, I’ve let you—and myself—down. I’ve written a number of blogs, and my writing group has carefully, sometimes ruthlessly but always lovingly, helped me recraft what I’d written. I’d leave our critique sessions eager to polish and publish my pieces. But, for various reasons, including heath and its companion, fatigue, I failed to post what I had written.
I know it wasn’t a gap in your life. But you have let me know that my thoughts were of interest to you, and I failed to share what I had prepared.
Without doubt, I failed myself. So much of what I was trying to think through could—and did—come from honing my work. But I allowed that writing to lie fallow.
I try to let scripture guide me, and I call on verses such as this often. “Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)
I must use my gifts—I feel new urgency to do so.
Just days before Christmas I received a voice message from the husband of a friend, urging me to call him as soon as possible. When I returned his call, he told me the unimaginable—”Joan died yesterday.” Joan, a colleague and dear friend. Joan, years younger than I—gone. My friend, who in retirement learned to play the ukulele, was walking from Bellingham Ukulele Group’s (BUG’S) rehearsal for their holiday concert. Walking to a coffee shop to meet up with her son, she stumbled, fell and died. Suddenly, unbelievably.
I don’t know which emotion was stronger, my deep grief for the loss or my overwhelming regret that I’d let so much time go by without contact.
Joan Airoldi and I met when I was chair of the Whatcom County Library System Board of Trustees. The board hired Joan as the system’s director and our professional connection began. In addition to the board meetings, Joan and I met each month over lunch to review library activities and to inform me of issues ahead. The most stunning/impactful/unsetting lunch opened with Joan saying, “There’s no easy way to say it. We may be the first library in the nation to receive a request for records under the USA Patriot Act.”
My time on the board ended, Joan retired—and our connection continued, most often over lunch. Joan and I were lunch buddies, lunch is what we did. Why did I let so much time go by since our last shared meal?
In several of those written-but-never-posted blogs, I explored the impact of approaching my 80th birthday next August. Benjamin Franklin reminds me of this truth, “You may delay, but time will not.”
Pope Paul VI was blunt when he said, “Someone should tell us right at the start of our lives that we are dying. Then we might love life to the limit every minute of every day. Do it! I say, whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”
I tend to make resolutions at the beginning of each new year. Most are repeated year after year: exercise more, eat healthfully, develop better sleep habits. I’d be better off if I carried through on those perennials. I will give some attention to those “shoulds,” but this year my soul is focused elsewhere.
My 2023 resolutions don’t include any bucket-list sort of wishes. I’ll relish any travel opportunities that come up, just as I’ll welcome other projects that aren’t currently on my mind. However, my list includes yearnings that are deeper, richer, quieter—calm, peace-filled, reflective. Those are my 2023 action words.
Additional words for my resolutions: curiosity, imagination, zeal, and resilience. These precious days are not to be wasted.
More than ever, I want to read, think, and write. I’ll never give up my love for gripping-good novels, but I must include reading that slows me down, takes me deeper.
More than soul-filled reading/writing that draws me in, though, is my resolve to honor my friendships. Joan’s death commands me to take action, to meet, “to lunch.” To connect!
At an 80th birthday surprise luncheon for a friend, one tactless guest announced, “Yes, 80. The decade of death.” Her comment was greeted with exasperated groans of the “how can you say that?” sort.
While her comment showed amazing lack of good manners, it illustrated the reality that we don’t know when death might come—those of us of “a certain age” certainly can’t pretend it won’t happen to us any time soon. We just don’t know.
Scripture reminds us of that fact. “But about that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36). The next chapter gives us the action required, “Keep awake, therefore, for you know neither the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:13)
There is my main guidance for the next year: Keep Awake! Awake to all that matters, to the potential of each day.
Dear Reader, may you focus your life in 2023 on what brings you joy and connection. I am blessed that some of that connection will be between you and me.