The daily round began with a long walk on the bike trail near my home. Brilliant white egrets posed along the river’s sandbars, flashed in the sunlight, and stood, as peaceful as Buddha, in their meditative stillness. Like guardians at the door of a hallowed shrine, they set the tone for a hushed contemplation as I walked along.
The trail is curtained by trees now peaking in autumn’s colorful translation of the life-to-death dance we enter with our first breath–an intake of spirit–and exit with our final breath, when we set that spirit free. People track the changing hues of the leaves and plan trips to enjoy the movement of “peak colors” as they flow through the forested regions of the state.
The dazzling colors signify the leaves’ coming deaths, but not just that; for once fallen, they fertilize the earth and enrich the creation of life-to-come.
When I worked as a hospice chaplain, I walked through the forests of long-term-care facilities and sat with the peaking colors of my dementia patients. One would think their lack of verbal abilities and mental acuity would preclude the gifting of wisdom and inspiration, but I found it to be otherwise. As I sat with their energy, I was often bathed in the light of their peace; insights flowed between us, evolving, and leading me to a keener appreciation of those who meet death with an energetic purity unimpeded by language.
My thoughts often drift back to these moments; though the nursing facilities were often drab, my memories of sitting with my patients are bathed in vivid colors. As their bodies declined, their spirits flamed, and their lives certainly have continued to enrich my own. Decomposition–the end of our life’s song–leads to recomposition, the creation of the new music inspired by those lives.
And so I wonder if my “true colors” are peaking as I age, if I’m sharing them as boldly and bravely as the trees, and if I’m using my gifts in ways that will entice and nurture the creativity of others after I’ve “changed worlds.”
May we tend to our peaking colors, cheer on the singular rainbows of others, and be grateful for those who have pursued their uniqueness with unrelenting enthusiasm, thus fertilizing the creativity of all.
Requiescat in pace, Steve Jobs.