Sister Rita has been living with two deadly cancers -- melanoma, which affected one of her eyes and partially blinded her -- and mesothelioma. She turned 81 recently. And yet the woman who enthusiastically came to the door was vibrant, full of life and joy.
She was joined by Sister Anne, herself afflicted with cancer and, most recently with a broken hand suffered during a fall two weeks before. They talked about days filled with good works and excellent conversations -- especially morning visits over coffee and bagels with the rabbi at the neighborhood synagogue. They are as active as possible in parish projects and have been taken part in peace protests. And they revel in their new retirement life in a nice home with an allowance from their religious order. Despite the physical pain they've experienced and the uncertainty of the future, both Sisters Rita and Anne were filled with youthful energy and happiness.
I enjoyed watching these two dear friends preparing a lunch of salad and freshly baked Irish soda bread as they teased each other gently and laughed together about enduring personal traits.
And I told them that I was delighted to find them so filled with energy and joy.
Sister Anne smiled at me. "We were talking about that before you came, Kathleen, and I think it has to do with where we live in our lives," she said. "We live most happily in the present. Today is wonderful. The past is gone. And who knows about the future? But today -- today is just grand, isn't it?"
I was struck by the beauty and simplicity of her words and the wisdom of living mindfully and joyfully in the present.
So often we miss the full measure of today because we're looking ahead to new challenges -- either anticipated or dreaded -- or behind us to old regrets or to triumphs unlikely to happen again.
Pausing for a time in our rush from past to present, savoring the moment, can bring new joy and energy to our lives.
Just for now, take a deep breath, close your eyes and feel the sweetness of the air as your breathe.
Open your eyes and take in, with new appreciation, all you see around you: your pet's sweet, trusting face, the amber hues of the late afternoon, a flowering tree or early spring blossoms in your garden, a favorite painting or photo on the wall. Notice details you didn't take time to discover before.
Savor the taste of your food -- the sweetness of spring's first ripe strawberry, the freshness of some steamed vegetables, Give yourself the gift of time to appreciate texture and subtleties of taste.
Hear, with new delight, the voice of a loved one, the sounds of the night, or your favorite piece of music.
And tell yourself that right here, right now, you are at peace.
You may be facing illness, either your own or that of someone you love, but for this moment, all is well.
You may have had a major loss or terrible disappointment, but, in this instant, you can see, breathe, taste and hear sweetness.
There is so much joy in allowing yourself to live mindfully and fully in this moment. It is a resting place, a refuge from all that has come before and whatever lies in the ahead.
Embracing this enduring lesson from two very special Irish sisters has brought extraordinary peace to my own life in a month when health concerns have been all too present. Yes, there is that calendar filled with medical appointments for both Bob and me. Yes, I have concerns that health challenges may be on the horizon for both of us.
But right now, savoring a cup of green jasmine tea and delighting in its delicate flavor, I'm watching a gentle breeze blowing through the flowering plants and sweet-smelling citrus blossoms in our back yard. Gus is purring at my feet and SweetPea is lying by the computer, resting her head on my right hand, purring softly. Bob, with Maggie on his lap, is doing his daily crossword a few feet away. We are all here together -- the whole family -- quietly enjoying each other on a breezy Arizona morning.
Today is, indeed, just grand.