"Day is Done"
I have been somewhat overwhelmed with the number of people who are talking about how happy they are that 2016 is finally coming to an end. In some sense this really was a pretty tough year in the world and in this country. It seemed like every day we were reading about some new crisis or other; and regardless of whether or not your candidate won, the recent mean-spirited presidential election has left the entire country divided by bitter culture wars. For lots of people this has certainly not been a very good year.
My wife and I have been away this past week visiting our family, and so I have been spending lots of time playing with my little grandson. It's amazing how small children can help adults get a better grip on what really matters in life. They haven't yet figured out how to mess things up and haven't lost their way in the maze of the ambitious rat-race of life. A 2-year old child just takes life as it comes and embraces it all with surprise and joy - every morning is really and truly a brand new day filled with exciting possibilities.
This morning I've been thinking about this end-of-the-year and reflecting on how easily I can lose sight of what really matters in life. I am reminded of some relatively recent research that has emerged from the study of various "end-of life" interactions in the "Hospice" literature. It's so interesting to me that regardless of culture or life-circumstances, when people get to that stage where they are at the very end of their lives, they almost universally say the same things.
As they lay on their death-beds most people tap into the things that really matter as they turn to their loved ones gathered around them and say things like:
Please forgive me
I forgive you
I love you
As I think about it I suppose that these are the qualities that really are endemic to living a full life as human beings: Forgiveness. Thankfulness. Love. It seems to me that anything else we may say or do in life is always at the periphery of these three things that matter most.
So, as this year comes to an end, I reflect upon 2016 and I ask how well I forgave others. I also ask myself if I have been thankful or if most my time has been spent complaining. Most of all I look at how well I have extended my own life for the welfare of others, how well I have loved. When I do this, I discover that all the other stuff that happened last year really pales in comparison.
I am also reminded of a very wise teaching of the Buddha that I hold before me today and take with me into 2017:
In the end these three things matter most
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?
Some good questions for some serious reflection before the countdown to a new year begins.