Facebook friends never die apparently: I received a birthday notification yesterday of a friend who had died last year. Um.
That is fine with me. I appreciated being reminded of his exceptional life, his resilience and his courageous battle with cancer. Although I hadn’t known him long, he was the type of person who inspired others through his gentleness, respectful attitude, generosity of spirit, faith and courage. He lived each day fully, offering his life in service to his family, friends, church and clients.
The last weeks of his life, his battle with cancer and decreasing strength were shared in loving detail at the funeral. Photos showed him huddled under a blanket, frail but with a radiant smile. What stayed with me most vividly was the account of his almost blissful state of wonder which seemed to heighten as his strength declined. One friend related that he spent almost the entire time that they shared together repeating, “Oh wow,” in amazement.
In amazement of what? What was he oh wowing about? How do I get more oh wow in my day-to-day life? Do I have to wait until I get sick and die?
I suspect that for many of us it might take just that. Somewhere in that process, when the door to the other side opens, we will be overcome with a sense of sheer amazement and awe.
According to the accounts that I have been reading lately* of dying and near death experiences (NDE), this is seemingly inevitable. More often than not, the individual “dying” reports some marvellous experience of a different level of reality as they vibrate out of this dimension into the next, and then back again. Those who have had a NDE report that they bring back into daily life intense sense of beauty, love, peace and wonder back which then permeates the most common ordinary moments. (*I recommend Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven.)
But I am greedy and impatient. I don’t want to wait until I am dying.
I want those oh wow moments now. The question is: “How?” My friend tapped into this awareness somewhat ahead of schedule. Certainly he was failing but he was was not actually at death’s doorstep. He was still very much present and alert with weeks to live when his friend was visiting him. All the while, even in the limitations of his life experience, he was able to see something of the miraculous quality of his life.
All of us have had some such awareness at seminal moments in our lives. We have our personal list of mountain top experiences, some of these on actual mountain tops, others while sitting in our garden or on a beach, or in someone’s arms – a mother’s, a lover’s; maybe some seemingly miraculous occurrence that delivers us from a desperate situation; perhaps watching a sunset or frost form on a window or the morning dew glistening in a spider’s web.
The variations are as numerous and unique as are we. As I reflect on what I would name as my oh wow experiences, the list is almost endless. Some of the more notable: standing of the lip of the Grand Canyon, taking refuge from a storm on Lake Superior in a pristine uncharted cove, watching the night sky turn completely blood red from Northern lights, meeting Patricia for the first time, building a snow fort with my children, giving my life to Jesus.
The common characteristic of these oh wow experiences is that they heighten our appreciation for beauty, love and the miraculous nature of our daily un-ordinary life. They leave us feeling connected, belonging to something bigger than ourselves, a part of something mysterious and magical.
Ho hum is out. Oh wow is in. But as I confessed earlier, I am greedy. I want to constantly live with this sense of oh wow. So how?
The unifying theme for me in these experiences seems to be nature, loving relationships and God. If I make connection with anyone of these, I am in good company. If I can merge or blend all three, then I am almost guaranteed that oh wow awareness.
Not that it has to be off the Richter scale anymore. It can be very normal and everyday, like watching my beloved cook a meal or taking a stroll through the river valley or getting a hug from my daughter.
As for the God piece, this is not about a belief or anything that I can get too specific about. I use the word God loosely. As the Tao says, paraphrased: When we try to name a thing, we lose the essence of the thing in the process. It is more a felt sense that there is more going on behind the scenes than I know, that there is a meaning and purpose that permeate the present .
So here I am.
Working on my Oh wows.
Sensing, watching, aware.
On my front-porch swing, in the garden, dancing tango.
And from this vantage point life does look wondrous, awful, mysterious.