How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
"Come in, dear." She suppressed a deepening cough as she smiled and delightedly waved him in.
"The kettle's on," she called as she shuffled into the kitchen.
How does she do it, he thought. She's on her last legs, but she isn't giving up.
They chatted at length about world affairs, and it was only when he noticed her coughing more that he remembered her plight and felt he should leave her to rest.
His leaving was as pleasant as his arriving. He felt no obligation, only a happiness that he had been there.
"I'll see you tomorrow!" he waved from the gate. But he never had the chance.
The next week, at her funeral, he smiled through the tears. It was what she would have wanted. Or was it? She never imposed her ills on others, we all knew that, but why?
In the time he had known her, he had learned so much. Almost effortlessly, her unstained perception would reach to the heart of wherever he was. With a word and a smile, she would selflessly unlock the next door.
Did she do what she did out of kindness? Did she put herself in your shoes and abhor the sympathetic pain? God knows, she had enough of her own. Yet before the cancer and since, she did not avoid the suffering of others. It was one of those things about her: you could tell her anything and she would neither shy away nor try to carry the weight for you. Yet talking with her about it somehow made the load lighter.
Looking around, he saw many who seemed like he felt. A bizarre mix of aching grief and boundless gratitude.
Eloquent eulogies flowed and he empathised with every one. She would be missed, and yet did this miss the point?
There was that difference between them that only now he was beginning to understand. He thought a great deal about things. She just was. He made careful decisions. She just did things. Yet he could not fault them.
As the coffin slid from view, he could still see her, quiet and peaceful. And as she disappeared, his tears dried and he felt the moment as blissful eternity.
Afterwards, the house was overflowing. How could she know so many people? And the stories of her quiet teaching and impish fun! Musings and mirth. Learning and love. And so openly truthful and without cloying emotions. When they left, it was as natural friends who had just popped around for a drink and a chat.
Rest In Peace, it said. There was no worry about that. She was the only person he knew who had Lived In Peace. And not only that - she had generously shared it with everyone she met.
Not alone in that quiet graveyard, he smiled. He, too, had been terminally infected by her unconditional peace. And now he had no option but to continue her life's work.
And so she lived forever.
~by David Straker~
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