A LEGACY BEGINS WITH GRATEFULNESS
The Spirit of Health
When a close family member or friend passes, you find yourself doing a lot of reflection. It’s not short-term either, but ongoing as the months and years pass by. Loving condolences offered by other family members and friends are like sweet healing salve on an opened wound. Especially so are the wonderful memories shared about how that loved one touched their lives so deeply.
I have been so blessed to hear the expressions of the qualities that my parents displayed in their lives. When Dad passed, people I didn’t even know came up to me and used words like "integrity." "He was a man of integrity," many said. His word was his bond. He always went way beyond what he promised to deliver in his work."
The same is true with Mom passing five years later. I heard these comments and many similar: "She embodied hospitality and humility. She encouraged me greatly by her faith. She didn’t let life’s challenges throw her, but always maintained a sense of humor. She fed the multitudes."
The baton is passed. I think deeply about the legacy I‘d most like to leave. Desirable character traits come to mind immediately: trustworthiness, integrity, compassion, hard-working, loyal, faithful, courageous, hospitable and grateful. I’m sure we all exhibit one positive outstanding trait readily identifiable to others, but it is my passion to live to embrace all of them every day, to be mindful in my actions and reactions. More than just beautiful words on paper, these are words of action and conviction. These are behaviors you demonstrate to others each day out of a heart of gratefulness. It is the one word, "gratefulness," that I want to explore more in this article.
Life Gets Your Attention
We hear stories of people who were at the brink of death and came back to life, having been changed forever by that experience. I can relate. My exposure to a pesticide, poisoning my body, brought me close to that light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. In and out of consciousness with life flashing before me frame by frame, I had that overwhelming, compelling feeling we are here to serve as light to others. If God wanted me to continue living for the purpose I needed to fulfill, I would rise to it.
I’ll never forget the day when I was finally able to go outside after several years struggling to breathe and abject lack of energy. Walking outside, I made my way down the stairs from a second floor apartment. Coming up behind me on my right appeared a Momma duck and her 16 little ducklings trailing behind her. That was a graphic picture of life! It was a moment of tearful gratefulness.
I savored the vibrant green grass, blue sky, white fluffy clouds, and the sound of bumblebees buzzing around nearby flowers. Oh, how grateful I was to be alive, soaking in the glories of nature, able to breathe easier without intense burning pain in my chest. The long struggle of gasping for each breath, atrophied muscles, hair and weight loss, and decreased ability to think, hear and see was overshadowed by this moment. I stood motionless, basking in freedom, sensing everything the Consummate Artist of the Universe had on perfect display.
Peering into the eyes of my children, gifted in the arts, brought to the fore how grateful we should be to have an opportunity to share every moment of life, using our gifts to the full, as a living tribute to our Maker.
It was during the worst of my toxic health assault that I knew I must educate others on the dangers of exposure to toxins around us in many forms. We can know something academically or with head knowledge, but experiencing the devastating effects personally puts it on a whole different intense level. I made a promise to actively wake up others to the exposure routes of toxins in our world.
My journey towards fulfillment of this began by working part-time at Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, FL. The surroundings were so healing and safe from toxic chemical exposure. I knew I was not able to handle toxic fumes of any kind at this point. I was privileged to be among the most beautiful, delicate creatures in a rainforest setting. Majestic orchids of all colors provide delicious nectar for these splendid living works of art. The cases full of butterflies emerging from their chrysalises was a profound symbolism-- life transforming into greater beauty. We are all like those butterflies. We, too, will thrive in a wholesome and clean environment alongside those whose hearts appreciate us each day.
Moving to northwest Florida, I began my most fervent education to a community so pristine and beautiful in appearance along the Gulf of Mexico. Spraying for insects was commonplace, both by truck and plane. Desiring to help these wonderful people to truly see the dangers of chemical toxins and effective, safe alternatives, I started a coalition for a safer environment. I was privileged to share company with two champions, Gayle Powell, and M.C. Davis. These are outstanding stewards, daily protecting wildlife and their habitats.
Our coalition was given a voice before the County Commissioners. These forward-thinking officials looked at the science and ruled in favor of stopping the plane that was spraying toxic organophosphates (endocrine disruptors) on the visitors at the beach, the birds, bees, butterflies and aquatic life along the shoreline.
We sometimes think that our one small voice may not make a difference. But, difference can be made one life at a time. When others who appreciate the sanctity of life and desire to preserve it join forces, bigger change is possible.
Be grateful today for your every provision of food, air, water and shelter. Be grateful for the loved ones around you. Most of all, be grateful for the loving Grand Designer who made you with the most marvelous body having the capacity to heal. Share your special gifts with others. Be grateful you’re alive.
I now appreciate with much greater depth the words of Robert Frost in his "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." The ending has special meaning:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
If you are able to do so in person, visit these two very special education centers preserving nature’s beauty:
Coconut Creek, Broward County FL : http://butterflyworld.com/
Freeport, FL: http://eowilsoncenter.org/welcome.html