It has been too long since I have seen my dear friend Joy, with whom I discussed the issues of life and the things of God for many years. She is now in a nursing home, suffering a form of dementia that leaves her a little bewildered and unsure what is happening at times. Yet at other times, she is so aware and remembers so much.
‘Of course I do!’ she says with spirit, when I ask if she knows me. ‘Oh Jo-Anne! So lovely to see you!’
I am embarrassed because three family members are also visiting, yet they assure me I am welcome. Eventually, I show Joy my new book, Becoming Me, wondering if she will recall the struggle it has been to write.
‘I’m so glad you finally have this published,’ she says. ‘It has been a long journey for you.’
I am touched and amazed she remembers—and cares even now.
Somehow, the conversation turns to poetry. The granddaughter present recalls how Joy often used to read poems aloud to her whenever she visited—especially the poetry of Mary Oliver. Together, we try to recite lines from a particular poem of hers we all love. We stumble, unsure of the exact wording. Then, to our surprise, Joy joins in and together, we remember it clearly. It is the last two lines from the poem, ‘The Summer Day’:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
We sit in quietness, reflecting on these words which have always challenged me. I then remind Joy of another poem she shared with me—this time one she herself wrote. I love it so much I included it in an earlier book, Soul Friend, my memoir about the spiritual journey Joy and I shared over many years. I have brought a copy with me, thinking Joy may have forgotten about this earlier book, and now delve into my bag to retrieve it.
‘I can’t remember what chapter it’s in,’ I say. ‘It would probably take me ages to find.’
Yet there it is, on the very first page I turn to! It’s as if the book opens by itself at the exact spot.
‘Read it to us!’ one of Joy’s daughters urges.
I hesitate, but then plunge in.
I saw the power pole break loose
as the lurching Melbourne tram
rounded a corner,
bouncing here and there in frantic
searching for connection,
almost joyous dancing …
I read on, as the words explore the idea of finding true freedom to live life fully, aware the poem may touch some raw places in us all.
Soon after, I need to leave.
‘I don’t want you to go!’ Joy says softly, touching my hand. It is a tender moment.
As I drive home, I reflect on the beautiful legacy she has left and is still leaving in this world in so many ways. And I decide again I want to continue touching others’ hearts with God’s love like that too, to speak of true freedom, to make a difference in this world.
If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36
What is the legacy you are leaving in this world? … What are you doing with your ‘one wild and precious life’?