Well you might think that today I would get a pass on my pilgrimage to Lake Michigan given that it's solidly below zero and getting worse by the minute. But that's not what we pilgrims are like. We follow through. Besides I had a mission to accomplish today that transcended a lot of things. So I headed out, not on my lunch hour but after having taught my class, to see what I would see at the Lake.
The water has a cloud of thick steam simmering above it, making visible that story about Great Lakes evaporation and the protection the ice provides. Most days you don't see the steam or the evaporation but when it's this cold it's very apparent.
The ice floes are pushed up against the retaining wall at my feet - much thicker today.
I stood there and contemplated the vast. Almost a year ago I wrote a post for my husband and in honor of his beautiful mother, who slipped away from us today. As I looked out over that freezing steaming lake I thought about her. It was she who brought me here today; she expected you to do what you said you'd do.
"Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars."
That is the first line in a poem by Henry VanDyke. Van Dyke was an American intellectual who graduated from Princeton in 1873. An enlightened man, he opposed military intervention in the Philippines, was appointed Foreign Minister to the Netherlands by Woodrow Wilson, and was an influential theologian of the period.
This poem is one I had not been familiar with, but given that my first encounter with it was on a refrigerator magnet I found at a rummage sale, I surmise that I'm a bit of a latecomer.
That first line is a winner, and the rest of the piece follows suit.
Be Glad of Life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars: to be satisfied with your possessions; to despise nothing in the world except falsehood and meanness, and to fear nothing except cowardice; to be governed by your admirations rather than by your disgusts; to covet nothing that is your neighbor's except his kindness of heart and gentleness of manner; to think seldom of your enemies, often of your friends...and to spend as much time as you can with body and with spirit. These are little guideposts on the footpath to peace.
That's the kind of person my Mother-in-Law was. Her final year was a rough one, but she found joy in it and relished it to the end. She expected a lot out of life and she got it. And in the end, she had peace.
I will truly miss her.
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