“Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time.” – Betty Smith
I have a few people I’m excited for you to meet. You could say I”m even anxious for you to meet them! I think they have something important to teach you; a beautiful illustration to draw for you; and a life-changing way of looking at life that live inside your heart forever. Their names are Clara and Clarence, but before making the introductions, there’s one thing you should know: They both recently died.
There are many things in life that I do not do:
- budget my money well
- budget my money at all
- pass by a Starbucks
- stick to a diet
- begin a diet
- sit still
- worry (life’s too short)
- clean closets (life’s too short)
- skip any of the 20,000 words women say daily
- read the obituaries
Which is why it’s so strange that a few nights ago, while sitting with my husband, getting my 20,000 in, and looking through our local newspaper, I stopped at the obituaries section. Some of the recently departed were represented with recent photographs and a few were represented with photographs that were apparently taken in their hey day (personally, that’s what I’d want!). Two individuals were represented by sweet recent pictures, with pictures of each one of them below. Clever families! These two individuals (no doubt you’ve guessed by now that they’re the stars of this post, Clarence and Clara) caught my eye and I had to read more about them.
Clarence, with his very handsome pictures, was “above the fold,” so I read about him first. Kind of surreal, isn’t it? An entire life’s story summed up in 3 paragraphs. Twitter has nothing on obituaries.
First of all, I should tell you that Clara and Clarence (although their names sound as though they were twins or married SO long even their names began to look alike), were not related. They simply happened to pass away on the same day, rejoined their prospective spouses on the same day, and caught the eye of an overly caffeinated self help blogger on the same day.
Clarence wore a hat in each of his pictures. He had a precious smile in the more recent picture, and something about the smile told me he was a charmer. In the younger picture, he wore his Marine’s uniform and a serious expression replaced the smile. I guess that isn’t hard to understand. The younger Clarence had movie star looks – with his strong manly facial features and George Clooney eyebrows. Handsome Clarence lived to be 88 years old! He was married to his wife for 48 years before losing her to Heaven. As I read the words, I couldn’t help smiling at the sweet reunion they surely had.
I hope he wore his hat.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein
Clara’s adorable recent picture brought a tear to my eye. Something about her eyes remind me of my grandmother’s eyes. The same sparkle and the gleam was in this grandmother’s eyes that were in mine. Something about those eyes told me that these ladies were a lot alike, and I’m going out on a limb here, but I bet neither of them short-changed their 20,000 words a day either. In fact, Clara’s obituary stated that she liked sharing stories… that’s my girl! No wonder I felt such a bond.
Clara beat Clarence by a few years. This lovely lady lived to be 92 years old. She was born in 1919! How amazing is that? The fact that she was married in 1936 blew my youngest daughter’s mind. Clara, too, was preceded in death by her spouse. They had been married 57 years when she lost him. The happy ending, of course, is that she found him.
I couldn’t help staring at Clara’s younger picture. What a beauty! The picture was apparently taken in the ’30s, which tells me she made one stunning bride. In this picture, her hair’s up in the back and she’s wearing some sort of an elaborate flower in her hair. Her beautiful face reminds me of the character Ado Annie in Oklahoma – and I’m willing to bet that Mrs. Clara had at least as much spirit and sass.
After reading their life stories (infuriatingly summed up in mere paragraphs – I’d have loved to learn more about each), I finally pulled myself away from their beautiful faces. I noticed that a few things lingered in my mind and heart:
- The things each must have seen! Think about the things you and I have seen in our lifetimes. Now, imagine that these two saw all of those as well as SO much more. How fascinating it would have been to sit down with either of them and get their thoughts about past presidents, world events, inventions, fashion, cars, and more.
- Each had long, successful marriages and were each reunited with their sweethearts.
- One of the things said about Clara was that she enjoyed spending time with her family. I hope everyone realizes that, when it comes to their parents and grandparents, the world literally lights up when you walk through the door. Make it happen as much as possible and keep that light burning as long as you can.
- During their last days, how short their lives must have seemed and how fast they must have seemed to fly by.
The last thought has especially stayed with me. Think back over your own life. No matter how many years your thoughts will have to span, it seems to have all gone by so fast. Think of past silly worries (extra weight, dining room tables, “he said this instead of that,” your spouse not getting what you wanted for your birthday or Christmas, the scratch on your car…). Today, do any of them really matter? Don’t you regret ever spending time feeling sad, worried, or mad about the silly stuff?!
“Don’t be afraid your life will end; be afraid that it will never begin.” – Grace Hansen
Make no mistake about it, each of us will one day have our lives boiled down to a couple of paragraphs. I’m not trying to depress you and I DO NOT want you to think about death. Au contraire! I want you to think about life! I want you to think about living your life out loud, making each moment count double, laughing more, smiling longer, rolling with the punches, loving more, and spreading happiness and laughter everywhere you go. I want you to get as much joy and adventure out of walking through your front yard as you would on an African safari. When you look at the world, I want you to see a playground – not places you wish you could go, cars you wish you could drive, money you wish you had…. None of that creates happiness.
Happiness comes from within, not without. Over the years, my husband and I have lived everywhere from Madisonville, Kentucky to Wichita, Kansas and from Washington, Indiana to Pensacola Beach, Florida. From Rantoul, Illinois to Webster City, Iowa! Shew, I’m glad we’ve settled down here in Owensboro, Kentucky – it’s not easy always remembering a new phone number, zip code, or address!
When we were first married, Michael (husband) was in the Air Force. With a baby on the way, we lived in a tiny little apartment near the Military Base in Illinois. You could sit on the couch and see the entire apartment. Other servicemen and their families lived in the apartment complex and people were coming and going 24 hours a day. Saying it was noisy is an understatement. Tiny, noisy… and I loved it!
“We spend too much time living in the ‘what if’ and need to learn to live in the ‘what is.’” – Rev. Leroy Allison
When Michael and I, along with our three beautiful daughters and (at the time) one beautiful cat lived on Pensacola Beach, Florida – we had come a long way from that tiny noisy apartment. You practically needed a tour guide to take you from one end of the beach house to the other. Practically the entire back of the house was glass, so we could watch dolphins, seagulls, boats, waves, and pelicans as we ate at the dinner table, as I cooked in the kitchen, and as we watched tv in the living room. Noisy? Not unless you call the sounds of the ocean noisy.
Moral of the story (do written words count toward the 20,0000? If so, I annihilate that humble little goal): I swear to you, if you take the fact that I had my 4 girls then (the cat was a girl, too) – I was no happier in the beach house than in my noisy little apartment. I smiled and laughed (and talked, Lord, I talked) in each home. It matters not WHERE life puts you, it matters how much life is IN you.
It’s possibly the strangest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve kept the pictures of Clara and Clarence. In case I ever feel the weight of the world or have cause to feel down, I’m going to look at their pictures and let them remind me that life doesn’t last forever. Life is as beautiful as it is precious and like any fun ride, there will be ups as well as downs. But are we ever really ready to get off the ride?!
If the heroes of our story could come back to earth and be the age you are right now, what do you think they’d do? Would they worry and fret over things that don’t matter or would they know that “all this” doesn’t last forever? Imagine how they’d look… I mean really look… at a butterfly or tree. Imagine how they’d close their eyes and listen to a songbird as though it were a concert.
Most of all, can you imagine the look on their faces when they were able to see their loved ones again?! They’d embrace them with their body, heart, and spirit.
We still have it all! Butterflies, birds, trees, family, friends… they’re things we often take for granted. The next time you see a butterfly, really look at it. SEE the beauty, fragility, and splendor. It’s like life. So much beauty but far too often, we look past it rather than at it.
It’s my deepest hope that Clara and Clarence will help you slow down and enjoy life more. Embrace it. I want you to live life with such passion that when you leave a room, people notice the void!
Maya Angelou said it best with one of my favorite quotes of all time, “Life likes to be taken by the lapel and told, “I’m with you kid. Let’s go!”
Don’t ever let me catch you without life’s lapel in your hands!