Living Life Forward

I once heard Michael Josephson recommend that we
think about what we want people to say at our funeral, 
then live life backward and do just that.
On purpose.
With intention.
Recently, I saw this quote, prompting reflection on also
living life forward.

I came back from Wisconsin to this love note in my work space,
from a student I've been supporting and mentoring.

In case you're not first-grade fluent yet, it says 
I love you, Mrs. Gruener.
Be still my happy heart.

This thoughtfulness-in-a-box put an exclamation point
on returning from an incredibly rewarding Fall trek home.

Our trip started with a visit to a school in Cedarburg
to see my friend Colleen and her second-grade superheroes.

We stayed long enough to get our Power Poses on.

On Thursday, I got to present two assemblies with Linnea McFadden spotlighting empathy, compassion and kindness 
to a group of some kindness crusaders in Plymouth.

A teacher from Sheboygan, Kathy came up afterward to say that
she'd been a reader here at the Corner since since my first post.
I remember her reaching out to me eight years ago or so,
so it was a treat to meet her in person and give her a big hug.

Saturday morning we enjoyed this brisk Mindful Moment 
on Crooked Lake at my brother's new lakefront home.

Listen to the birds sharing their morning song.
Imagine the scent of the northern Wisconsin pines.
See the colors of the Autumn sky reflected on glassy water.
Feel the cool air as you breathe in the gift of oxygen.


On Sunday my Dad signed me up to do the Scripture reading 
at both church services; in retrospect, I'm pretty sure 
I've never been so grateful to be volunteered for something,
because I was about to meet this young lady.

A family friend brought her over to me and asked if I knew who she was. Since I've not attended that church for some forty years, I couldn't say that I recognized her; she was, after all, likely in elementary school when last I saw her.

But the moment Mrs. Z spoke her name, I instantly knew her.
{It's her, the little girl we gave our dolls to, I gasped to myself.}

Her story is one of my earliest empathy memories.

You see, when my sister and I were twelve and eleven,
her sister and she were toddlers, ages two and three.
We'd look for them in church and we'd grown to love them.

Then the unthinkable happened; they lost their Father {in a car accident, I think}. Unable to imagine life without a Dad, my sister and I felt incredible empathy for our little friends.

Not exactly sure how to comfort them but feeling 
the strong pull of compassion to do so, 
we decided (with the help of our mom, I'm sure!) 
to give them our treasured dolls. 

Now, before you conjure up pictures of something fancy like American Girl Dolls, remember that the year was 1973 and think about two, decade-old dolls that had already been very well loved. Their coolest feature? Their eyelids actually blinked! They'd been given to us as Christmas gift when we were about the ages of these girls, so although they weren't all that, they were special to us.

Anyway, we wrapped our babies in their blankies, 
we invited these young sisters and their mom to our house, 
and we said good-bye to our baby dolls 
as we introduced them to their new moms.

My eyes filled with tears as joy overcame me
at meeting little Angie, all grown up now, on Sunday.
And when she wrapped me in loving embrace,
thanked me, and told me that they played with those dolls 
all of the time, I thought my heart might break into small, shiny shards like the stunning stained-glass windows in the sanctuary.

Later in the day, Angie sent a picture text telling me
that she'd stopped by her mom's place after church
and, sure enough, she still has those dolls.

Her mom said to tell us that our kindness will never be forgotten.

For fun, I went into the attic today to look for the bed
that Dad made all those years ago for those dolls. 

One day, our grandbabes will put their dolls to sleep in this bed.

Moments before reuniting with Angie,
as if by coincidence, we sang this song.

Coincidence? I think not.
More tears.
It is definitely well with my soul.

 What do you want people to say at your celebration of life?

And as you look back, how are you living life forward?


  1. I was thinking about you earlier this week and wondering how your co-presentation went (and tried to leave a comment a few days ago, but kept getting an error message). Trying again! The dolls are in amazing condition; it's obvious they were loved and taken care of. Lovely photos! Glad you had a rejuvenating trip!

    1. Thank you, my friend. It was SO beautiful there; it warmed my heart inside and out to be back home and experience all of this goodness.


I really enjoy hearing from my readers; thanks for sharing your reflections with us!