Life Lessons from a Natural-Born Teacher

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My friend Elizabeth has the serene and calming presence of many natural-born educators, and happens to be a teacher.

And, boy, has she taught me.

Still in treatment herself, she knew when to recommend I read “The Last Lecture,” and she knew what additional lessons perhaps only a survivor can truly impart to those suddenly thrust into cancer’s maelstrom.

She helped me wrap my brain around what my husband meant when he said that a terminal diagnosis could be harder on the spouse than the patient.

She and her husband offered up their own hard-earned experience to ease our sudden transition into a world not even doctors–unless they also are patients–understand.

They invited us up to their home for a rollicking last recording session with the Biff Jackson Group, an evening of belly laughs and home-cooked Italian food and an exegesis on the difference between People Who Like Parmesan and People Who Like Roman.

None of us knew that it would be the last night we spent out, enjoying the matchless company of friends.

They came to our home weeks later, as Jim was dying, and brought a table-sized family rolling board on which gnocchi were hand-cut for our youngest daughter while sauces bubbled on the stove to feed gathered family and friends.

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On March 22 of this year, five years to the day after Jim died, Elizabeth spoke about how she has come to appreciate life lived for nearly a decade with cancer.

Give yourselves a gift and read Elizabeth’s own words: “enjoy every moment you have, even the mundane ones. Every moment is an extraordinary gift you have been given. Ordinary is extraordinary. Every ordinary moment is the gift of life.”

May you enjoy every moment of your birthday today, Elizabeth. Each of them is the sum of wonders of love in all its forms.

As I look at the beaded pearls of water bringing light and depth to the brilliant colors of today’s newly bloomed flowers I remember sitting on the wildflower-strewn hill behind our home with you and Judy as you looked forward to your baby’s birth and told us about the friend whose name your daughter would be given–the baby who is now a beautiful young woman about to bring her gifts to college and the world beyond.

Hope and beauty, heartache and love, all part of each salty tear and each drop of rain.



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