A Hero Heads Home
“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.” ~ Buddhist saying
As I mentioned in last week’s Monday Morning Message while pondering paradoxes, I had just returned from visiting my dear friend of over three decades, Christina Martell, in a dusty little fishing village along the Pacific coast of Mexico.
On Friday, February 1st Christina died, peacefully and pain-free, in her own bed, with her dogs and her cat and her son and adopted daughter by her side. She chose to leave with dignity and grace and gratitude.
During my visit south, Mary Oliver—the Pulitzer winning poet who often spoke to the paradox of life within death—died herself, and I was struck by these lines from her poem, When Death Comes:
“When it’s over, I want to say all my life I was a bride married to amazement; I was the bridegroom taking the world into my arms.”
I’d like to be able to say that when my time comes.
Christina already can.
She was a remarkable woman—a force of nature—who truly took the world into her arms, and the little town of Boca under her wings. She created a sanctuary for countless numbers of people in countless ways over the years.
She began a scholarship program so that children could attend high school. One of the last things we did together was to go through those financials and ascertain things were in order.
She got a clinic built for the town. For years she wooed donors and created alliances. She got kids to go to the dentist. She got the dentist to donate his services. Water purifiers, trail-trash pick-up…the contributions she has made to that community are too numerous to name, her impact on a wide number and variety of individuals too vast to realize fully yet.
I am reminded that change begins one person at a time, and we can—and indeed are, for better or worse—creating a ripple effect that we cannot begin to imagine, every moment of every day.
I was fortunate to call her friend but blessed that she allowed me to choose her as my only honorary older sister. The photo shown here was taken at 11:11 am on Friday, January 25th. Our final farewell, the last “love you.”
As I type these words on Friday, only hours after her death, in a vain attempt to both stem my tears while I honour her life, messages are arriving from all over the world: the U.K., Canada, France, the States. Christina made a difference in the lives of many people.
Paradox: Sometimes it takes death to remind us how precious and fleeting life really is. That in the rending by death, we remember our connection in life.
And I am reminded, once again, viscerally, of how important it is to pay attention. To notice. To respond. To honour the dance of death as we waltz with life.
Another paradox: My heart is broken open—in two on the floor—and yet full of joy.
The ache of gratitude has elbowed out the pain of loss.
Because another human hero has headed home.
“When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes, they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.” ~Tecumseh