How would you want to do celebration of life? Who celebrates well? Sometimes it's people who you wouldn't expect. Have you encountered someone who by all rights could be bitter and depressed, yet they exude a deep joy?
Read some of the following stories and poems about gratitude and celebration of life. What's your way of noticing and noting the blessings or good things in your life. Making a point of creating an intentional method to name those happenings in our life worthy of celebrating enriches and gives meaning to our lives. I tell you about how I celebrate with scrapbooking further down this page.
A wonderful elder friend of mine recently introduced my husband and me to this poem. What an celebration of life to begin the day! The poem inspires me to make it my morning prayer. To expect lovely things is a good way to celebrate daily life as well as life's weeks, months and years. What lovely things came your way today, this week, this month, this year? How do you celebrate these lovely things?
Does this poem anticipate and expect celebration of life in the daily "little" things? If we can celebrate these smallest gifts, celbrating larger portions of grace will start to come naturally...
The Day Will Bring Some Lovely Thing
by Grace Noll Crowell
The day will bring some lovely thing,
I say it over each new dawn,
Some gay, adventurous thing to hold
Against my heart when it is gone,
And so I rise and go to meet
The day with wings upon my feet.
I come upon it unaware,
Some sudden beauty without name,
A snatch of song, a breath of pine,
A poem lit with golden flame-
High tangled bird notes keenly thinned
Like flying color on the wind.
No day has ever failed me, quite
Before the grayest day is done,
I come upon some misty bloom,
Or a late line of crimson sun.
Each night I pause, remembering,
Some gay, adventurous, lovely thing.
What causes you to exclaim, "Ah...it's a sweet life"? What "pennies" make your day? What would you seek out if you had "three days to see"? Stories like the ones below help us strengthen our "celebration of life" muscles.
This is one of my husband's favorite stories about celebration of life...
The poet Kathleen Norris tells of visiting her friend, an elderly monk in the monastery. He asked her if she would come with him to call on another monk who had taken a bad fall the day before. The injured monk had hit his head in the fall, and the doctors were still assessing the extent of his injuries. Norris says she was nervous about visiting the old man, but went anyway. She says: Nothing could have prepared me for what happened. [The nurse] entered the room and called out, “You have a visitor. Two visitors.” We heard a weak voice respond, “Ah…it’s a sweet life.” As we entered the room, and he got a look at us, he said again, “It’s a sweet life”….
The elderly monk in that hospital bed would probably be startled to hear how beautiful he was to me as he lay there with a hideously bruised face; how he radiated the love of Christ; how [he gave to me] words I didn’t even know I needed—“It’s a sweet life”…. He was an ill, old man, and not one but two people had come to see him. What could it be but sweetness, and God’s blessing?
Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk (New York: Riverhead Books, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1996), quoting pp. 366-67.
Might celebration of life take some "cultivation of simplicity"? See what Annie Dillard says...
When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since. For some reason I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions. After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe. But I never lurked about. I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny.
It is still the first week in January, and I’ve got great plans. I’ve been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But—and this is the point—who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kid paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (HarperPerennial, 1974)
Find yourself in amazement at the celebration of life present in these words from Helen Keller:
I, who cannot see, find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch. I feel the delicate symmetry of a leaf. I pass my hands lovingly about the smooth skin of a silver birch, or the rough shaggy bark of a pine.... I feel the delightful, velvety texture of a flower, and discover its remarkable convolutions; and something of the miracle of Nature is revealed to me.
Occasionally, if I am very fortunate, I place my hand gently on a small tree and feel the happy quiver of a bird in full song.... At times my heart cries out with longing to see these things. If I can get so much pleasure from mere touch, how much more beauty must be revealed by sight.
Yet, those who have eyes apparently see little. The panorama of color and action which fills the world is taken for granted.... It is a great pity that, in the world of light, the gift of sight is used only as a mere convenience rather than as a means of adding fullness to life.
"Three Days to See" by Helen Keller as quoted in In the Stillness Is the Dancing by Mark Link and Gene Tarpey (Resources for Christian Living, 1972)
Occasionally, if I am very fortunate, I place my hand gently on a small tree and feel the happy quiver of a bird in full song.
Scrapbooks are a wonderful way to do celebration of life – either your own life, or the life of someone you love. Children revel in scrapbooks that are about them and ask to look at them again and again. What a great way to demonstrate how much the child is loved than to make a scrapbook about them! Watch their self-esteem rise as they realize how much they are loved and appreciated. For those of us who are scrapbookers, we know how much love we pour into making an album. That love is deeply conveyed on each page.
Each year I try to do an album for my family of our experiences. This "year in review" is a wonderful way to look back at all the blessings we have had and pursosefully create a year's celebration of life scrapbook. We look at these at various times to "re-member" and "re-collect" the various good things that have happened to us.
Both of my parents are elderly, and in the last 10 years I've chosen to do a celebration of life album for each of their lives. My dad, a middle school teacher for 30+ years, has in his album letters from his former students who enjoyed expressing what a profound effect my Dad had on them. My mother, a registered nurse, has given much love and attention to not only family, but to others in the community when they were sick. The letters I received for her from various people in the community and the photos reflect these wonderful stories. These two albums are a great celebration of their lives.
Recently, our family was blessed with the birth of a grandson. I am in the midst of creating his first album that will celebrate his birth and acknowledge the love of all those who surround him. The words written in this album will be something that he will turn to again and again to be reminded of how much he is loved. Many of you know or remember that a baby prompts a special kind of celebration of life. It's good to capture the celebration in photos and stories for when your particular baby grows older.
Here's a poem that speaks of feasting on (celebration of life) one's life. I encourage you to use the art of scrapbooking as a way to feast on your life and the lives of those you love.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
A poem I really like by Derek Walcott