My friend Mari took flight from her cancer-riddled body last week, on September 16th.
Back in June, shortly after we met, Mari wrote this to me:
“I am receiving chemo as we speak…..I was told yesterday I am near the end….my doc is quite negative……I have brain mets and my markers have gone up…..my surgery was April 2014…..7 lb. tumor……wow! I gave birth to all my sadness, all my pain ……I am working on the meaning of NOW…..I don’t know what will happen next…….Roswell Park Cancer Institute on Friday for a second opinion…..I get scared…..not of death, just of meaninglessness.”
In the short period of time that I had the honor of knowing this woman, Mari Ellen Ryan brought a degree of meaning to my life that I am still not able to articulate fully. Our interaction started out in the most vulnerable place possible—sharing with one another painful parts of our journeys and how those difficult times have transformed us. (We met when Mari wrote to me after reading my piece What Mindfulness Taught Me about Father’s Day, also titled on another site What Mindfulness Taught Me About My Father’s Suicide.)
Mari and I didn’t know how much time she had left, so we didn’t waste time hiding behind masks. We didn’t take time to “get to know one another” before diving deep. We didn’t squander time on fear or insecurity.
So many people are too frightened to have an authentic conversation with another human being, especially when that other person is near the end of their life. Mari drew people in with her warmth and connection, invited profound, truth-telling conversation.
“After being so desperate to be loved most of my life, chasing after it in unhealthy ways, I am astounded by how much love is flooding to me right now. It’s coming from every direction. Every person I meet is at a crossroads of some kind, just as I am. Our conversations are long and deep and meaningful. It’s wonderful.”
Here’s the secret: Mari wasn’t afraid to show people she loved them, right from the outset. It wasn’t a needy kind of love. She wanted YOU to feel loved. She connected with people immediately at the soul-level because she had shed every ounce of ego in her interactions. By the time I met her, she was done with pandering and inauthentic communication, done with time-wasting surface chatter.
The truth is, time is short for all of us, whether we have days, weeks, or decades left to live.
If all of us could shed our fears and open ourselves to our innate connection with the rest of life on this planet, we could experience the deep sense of fulfillment and love that Mari described to me.
Meaningless life? I think not, my friend.
May these flowers reach you and remind you that I love you and will always carry you in my heart.
You can read my short interview of Mari and see a sample of her artwork here.
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