Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Seven Words

You may have noticed an absence of posts lately.

I blame the sunshine.

No, really.

Seattle has had a record-breaking heat wave this year and I’ve seen the sun so often that I can actually recognize it right away instead of taking the first five seconds to pause, shake my head and say, “wait, aren’t you…?”

It’s encouraged me to stay outside and away from the computer, thus giving a welcome respite to recharge the batteries.

But I have also been self-reflective lately.

Earlier this year a friend of mine who I worked with ended her long battle with cancer. Her absence in the office has been felt deeply and daily, ever since her choice to resign to fight the illness head-on. She was not without her courage and hope. I kept clinging to the idea of her return to the office and when she died, there were many feelings of anger and sadness as well as grief.

Her office is still empty and every time I pass by, I remember the many times I would take refuge in there, some times just to chat and other times to help “clean up” her office. This "clean up" mostly consisted of chatting about books, political affairs, and telling humorous stories. Oh yes, occasionally she would pull out a file from six years ago and ask me if she should throw it out (I always said yes but she would hold on to it, “just in case”), but more often than not she always gave advice, sometimes short and direct, but always wise.

Only recently did I realize how inspiring the last words she gave to me were.

She didn’t actually say them out loud. See, she gave me some pencils.

It was the day we were cleaning out her desk at work and I picked up a clear plastic tube containing some plain wooden #2 pencils. There were some words stenciled on them in different colors but I didn’t pay much attention to them, really.

Casually, she said, “You want ‘em?”.

I didn’t need wooden pencils. I actually use the mechanical kind (unless I’m sketching which I haven’t done since college). So I’m not really sure why I said “yes”. Something just said, take them.

About a week or so after her memorial, I took a closer look at the pencils on my desk. Each word is a different color. Each word is a different instruction. Sometimes I take the pencils out of the little plastic tube and hold them in my hands, like a talisman.

They remind me of her, but also remind me how to live.

Seven words which illuminate the simplicity of life.