Numbers 101 and 102.

My great-aunt is dying. She had cancer a few years ago, was treated, and was well enough to come to our wedding in August. Then somehow in the past 3 months, the cancer overtook her, spreading everywhere.

On Sunday, my siblings and I went to visit her. She's smaller than she ever was before, softer, quieter. I know she knows she's dying; she refused treatment this time around, preferring to be soon reunited with the husband she lost 20 years ago.

What do you talk about with someone who's dying? We erred on the side of asking about her life. "Who was your favorite president?" and "Did you like to go to dances?" and "What was our Dad like when he was young?"

These were my favorite answers. When you're dying, people's lives are boiled down to short words or phrases.

"A good boy." (for my Dad)
"She liked volleyball." (my aunt)
"Naughty." (relative)
"Busy." (relative)

I've spent the past 3 months reading biographies and I can say that these one-word biographies have been the most poetic of all.


You cannot read a biography without, on some level, calculating your life's trajectory. Biographies trace someone's history, explain how and why they were who they became, list accomplishments. Tomorrow, Chris and I leave on an early flight to Camp Mighty, where we will attempt to become mightier.

This is not about doing things so others believe I was once great. This is about reaching really far down and truly living the Gandhi quote: Be the change you wish to see in the world.

I posted my Life List last week and this morning I read through it again. So much on there is about me! So much on there is about things that I want to add to the resume of experience I have accumulated in this world. And that is not alright.

Grateful for this realization, I'm adding two more items. Two items that feel like true reaches, that feel as though they would make a REAL change I wish to see in the world:

101. Help change a struggling city into a thriving one.
102. Use my communication skills to help people understand something difficult. Could be national healthcare, the DMV, Green Card applications or something else that's known for being a black box.

These are the kinds of goals I want to think more about as I head out to Palm Springs and though I'm pretty anxious about the social experience of hanging out with the personalities at Camp Mighty, I'm aching for this to be a life-changing experience.

I will report back.


Tara said...

jen, what a beautiful post.

Jen said...

Thanks, Tara. xo