A week ago I came close to dying. Perhaps as close as I have ever come. "Massive bi-lateral pulmonary embolisms" is what was written on my chart in the hospital. Apparently for a lot of people who experience this condition it is diagnosed when the autopsy is performed. So I'm not just being overly dramatic. I didn't "see the light" or anything, but this was, for me at least, a big deal. And I've been thinking a lot about the experience ever since. More than thinking about it, however, I've been feeling it and living with it and letting it sink down deep in my bones and my soul. What happened? How has this experience changed me? What lesson or lessons seem to be presenting themselves for me to learn?
Perhaps the strongest initial awareness is a profound sense of gratitude simply to be alive. I have such an amazingly blessed life, surrounded as I am by so many wonderful, loving, supportive family and friends. I have the opportunity to engage in meaningful work with a creative, faithful, diverse congregation. I have been given gifts and an opportunity to share them in ways which seem to make a positive contribution in the lives of others and in the world around me. In those first moments when I became aware that all of that might be coming to an end, I was overcome with a deep sadness because I was not yet ready to say goodbye. As hard, and challenging, and frustrating, and confusing as it can be sometimes, I love my life, I love the people in my life, and I am deeply, deeply grateful for all of it.
The other awareness which seems to be following closely on the heels of this first one is a strong sense of what's really important in this life, and an equally strong unwillingness to put up with the "crap" which so often seems to occupy our time and emotional energy instead of what's really important. And what's important is loving, caring about and connecting with the people we share this life with. This moment is the moment we have in which to experience the fullness of life. I want to spend each of the precious, unique moments I've been given in such a way that my life is enriched by the connections I share, and the lives of others are enriched because they have shared life with me. It calls for honesty. It calls for depth of sharing. It calls for taking risks. We can play it safe, but what will that gain us? I want to share the fullness of my heart. I want to taste the fullness of your heart. I have less and less tolerance for the trivialities, the pointless arguments, the petty and useless differences which we have somehow allowed to take center stage in our lives and in our world. I want to feast on what is Real, and what is Real is Love, and Light, and Sacred Mystery which connects us all.
I don't yet know exactly how this will all play out in terms of the ways in which my life will look different. In some ways it really isn't anything new. All of this is already how I have been seeking to live. But at the same time I have a strong sense that this experience has moved me more firmly and deeply in that direction. It may be that what you get from here on out is simply more of what you were already getting. More honesty. More real. More love. More present moment. Less crap. At least I hope so. Time will tell.
For now, just know that I am so very grateful to still be counted among the living, and even more grateful that I will continue to have the opportunity to share the experience with each of you. Let the adventure continue.