I went to the funeral of my dear friend’s mother today. Mary was in her 90s and quite the lady. I had met Mary several years ago when she dropped by my house on an errand. That day my sweet Bailey, our family collie and big ol’ boy, wouldn’t leave her side. Laughing, Mary said, “That dog sure does like me!”
We used to call Bailey “the reception committee” because he knew no strangers, welcoming anyone who came over with a hopeful “smile” for attention. It was no surprise, then, that he was so solicitous of Mary. But as I listened to the priest describe Mary’s life at the service this morning, I realized Bailey may have had his own sort of “Spidey sense” and knew just how special she was.
Mary had a bright smile, twinkling eyes and a funny sense of humor. She loved to laugh, and she loved people and life. But Mary also had faced her share of adversity. She lost two of her grandsons when they were young to unexpected illnesses, and she was also a widow. She knew the blessings of life, but she also knew loss, as we all do when we’ve lived long enough.
When I was in high school, one of my favorite pastimes was riding my bike with my then-boyfriend and eventual husband. Sometimes we’d ride to the beach, or we’d ride to a neighboring town in the part of our world that we called “the Valley.” While on those rides, we’d visit with some of the older folks in our families. It was always great to visit with Wawa and Uncle Bob and others who would greet us with a good story to tell. A few years later, when I was asked to select a placement in a volunteer organization, I chose to visit people living in area nursing homes. Sometimes we’d play bingo. Other times I’d sit on the floor cross-legged, by the feet of interesting people who had so much to share. I don’t remember ever leaving without feeling a strong sense of fulfillment and connection. We can learn so much from people who live long, full lives.
Many years ago when I was in graduate school, I took a weekend seminar on spirituality and counseling. One of the points that truly resonated with me was that we “die as we’ve lived.” The professor explained that whatever we carry in our hearts while living will likely be what we carry with us as our final days approach. His question to us was, “How do you want to live?” The message was to live with awareness and intentionality. I took that lesson to heart.
Some of us want to live with a grateful heart and a sense of humor. Others want to live with a spunky spirit or a work ethic that makes a difference in others’ lives. During times of transition, we may invest in navigating these changes graciously and productively. Similarly, times of transition and growth offer opportunities for reflection and intentional action.
We each have our own aspirations of how we want to live, and as a profession, we hold these aspirations as well. As the counseling profession experiences its own times of transition, my wish is that we will reach our goals of receiving the same consideration and commensurate compensation as any other mental health professionals and that we will achieve license portability as we do the good work of counseling. And my hope is that during this process, we will remember and connect with the core qualities that make us the great profession we are.
Wishing you all my best,