My dear friend, JIL did this…She truly danced like no one was watching and she is dancing in heaven as I type, I am sure.
On August 5, 2005, Jil drowned in an Alabama lake while her family was with her. They were delighting in the final hazy, lazy days of summer when she slipped away. Jil was 40 years old. Jil was one of these people that inspired others to laugh and love. Jil is still remembered and missed by multitudes of people!
Last night as I was looking through an old file of inspirational articles and papers, I ran across an old email that Jil had forwarded to me in 2000. Sometimes life is funny, because this email had a note from Jil attached which quoted Joan Baez:
“You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now.”
You see, just before I received this email from Jil, she and I had participated in an Avon 3-Day 60 mile Breast Cancer Walk. We were surrounded by survivors at every turn. The walk was an incredibly stirring experience. A stirring of the soul.
An experience that changed our lives forever.
Jil’s email message to me, just five years before her death, follows:
DANCE LIKE NO ONE IS WATCHING
My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister’s bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package. “This,” he said, “is not a slip. This is lingerie.” He discarded the tissue and handed me the slip. It was exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. The price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached. “Jan bought this the first time we ever went to New York, at least eight or nine years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is the occasion.” He took the slip from me and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician. His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me.
“Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you’re alive is a special occasion.”
I remembered those words through the funeral and the days that followed when I helped him and my niece attend to all the sad chores that follow an unexpected death. I thought about them on the plane returning to California from the Midwestern town where my sister’s family lives. I thought about all the things she hadn’t seen or heard or done. I thought about the things she had done without realizing that they were special. I’m still thinking about his words today, and they’ve changed my life. I’m reading more and dusting less. I’m sitting on the deck and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I’m spending more time with my family and friends and less time in committee meetings. Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savor, not endure. I’m trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them.
I’m not “saving” anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event-such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, the first camellia bloom.
I wear my good blazer to the market if I like it. My theory is if I look prosperous, I can shell out $28.49 for one small bag of groceries without wincing. I’m not saving my good perfume for special parties; clerks in hardware stores and tellers in banks have noses that function as well as my party-going friends.
SOMEDAY and ONE OF THESE DAYS are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it’s worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now.
I’m not sure what my sister would’ve done had she known that she wouldn’t be here for the TOMORROW THAT WE ALL TAKE FOR GRANTED.
I think she would have called family members and a few close friends. She might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles. I like to think she would have gone out for Chinese dinner, her favorite food. I’m guessing-I’ll never know.
It’s those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew that my hours were limited.
Angry because I put off seeing good friends whom I was going to get in touch with-someday.
Angry because I hadn’t written certain letters that I intended to write-one of these days.
Angry and sorry that didn’t tell my husband often how much I truly love him.
I’m trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives.
And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that this day is special.
Every day, every minute, every breath truly is a gift.
YOU’VE got to dance like no one is watching and LOVE like it’s never going to hurt.
(author of this forwarded inspirational story is unknown to me)
So, it has been nearly four years since we said “see you later” to our dear friend Jil…recalling her laughter, her smile, her cooking and gift of hospitality, her voice and how she SAW and HEARD and DID what she wanted during her forty years here…
How about you…what is it that you are saving for a special occasion?