Monday, August 18, 2008

Grateful, Joyous: A Personal Tribute

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

                        1 Thessalonians 5.18

Remembering Patti

A dear friend, invaluable colleague and mentor, and extraordinary lady passed recently. Although reed-thin in appearance, Patti’s capacity for life was gigantic. Her passion fueled everything: her relationships, curiosity, art, faith, and ideals. It consumed her time and dictated her priorities. She was the most giving person I’ve ever known—not in the material sense, but absolutely in terms of spirit and selflessness. In fact, Patti maintained a simple lifestyle to escape burdens and demands that might pull her away from those she loved. When someone in her “tribe” (as she called us) told another she’d gone beyond the call, the standard response was always, “Of course she did.”

A Magnificent Legacy

Of course, she left a magnificent legacy of kindness, wisdom, and compassion that took a lifetime to accumulate and share. Loving people on their personal merits was simply out of the question. Nobody ever earned Patti’s care. She freely offered it. Fascination with religion drew her to every imaginable expression of faith, from Christian traditions to Zen philosophy to Native American mysticism. Mastering their fine points, she found common threads tying them together: honor God, love your neighbors, and believe in more than you know and see. I can’t recall Patti claiming to be “a Christian;” she resisted anything remotely boastful or disrespectful of other beliefs. Yet she epitomized Jesus’s message in every way.

Her last journal entry finished with two words: “Grateful. Joyous.” They couldn’t have been more perfect. Living simply didn’t always make her life simple. If anything, it added complications and hardships that most of us hire out for others to handle or throw money at to smooth over. But, to the end, she gladly took them on in exchange for the freedom she deeply enjoyed.

God’s Will

When Paul tells us to be thankful in everything, he describes an ongoing attitude. Undeniably, it’s tough to nurture and maintain, especially when we’re in trouble, in doubt, and every other negative condition. “It’s God’s will,” Paul says—what He wants for us, from us. That entirely redefines the focus from the situation we’re in to what’s in us. Even if I find nothing to give thanks for, I can remain grateful for the opportunity to obey God’s will—pleasing Him, loving others, and hoping for impossibilities instead of fearing the inevitable.

I suppose I’ve always understood this in theory. But reflecting lately on how Patti lived, I realize she proved it in practice.  Of course she did.

Patti's role model was Georges Sand, the 19th-century baroness who defied social conventions and class expectations to live by her own convictions. It was Sand who said, "There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved." 

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