The viewpoint from which we look at life circumstances (perspective) strongly affects our daily thoughts and feelings. And, these thoughts and feelings drive our reactions, actions and behaviors. When was the last time you actually stopped and looked at something from a different perspective? When did you see -
- A beginning rather than an end?
- An opportunity rather than a problem?
- Something possible rather than impossible?
- Another person’s point of view rather your own?
- How you made others feel rather than how you felt?
- Counting your blessings rather than adding up your troubles?
- Hope rather than fear?
If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at may change. What different perspectives would make your life even richer? You can choose to change them in an instant.
Here’s a very recent example from my personal life.
After a long, brutal 14.5 months with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, my bride of 35+ years (Pat) took her last breath. We were there by her side. Whispered in her ear. Stroked her ashy-colored temples. Shed a few tears on her sunken cheeks and kissed her for the last time.
Pat had spent her last two months exclusively in a hospital or hospice home. Despite this challenge, over 150 different people came to visit her, in what we now lovingly call her “living visitation.” And, five days following her death more than 350 people came to her life celebration at church. There were literally hugs by the hundreds. We were so very blessed.
Fast forward just three days later. The COVID-19 pandemic had rapidly spread and was creating devastating human sickness and loss worldwide. Restrictions - personal, organizational, and cultural - were increasing globally. Our state enacted a “shelter in place” which affected schools, business, and overall life. Churches and church services were not exempt. Based on CDC guidelines, funerals and visitations could only proceed for immediate family members but not exceed 10 people. Social distancing was to be observed and no physical contact.
How quickly perspective changed on an essential part of healing – mourning for someone who had just died. Important rituals like funerals and memorial services, where families could outwardly express their grief and others could pay tribute to someone they cared about and loved were gone. Seeking and giving comfort through human touch was also eliminated.
During Pat’s battle with cancer, many ‘traditional’ perspectives were challenged. Here are just a few that stand out:
- Warrior. Pat didn’t wear any protective armor or wield any weapons. There was no ‘basic training’ to prepare her for her personal ‘conflict’ with this terrible disease. But her inner strength, courage, and determination to battle through ten rounds of chemo, multiple surgeries, and an immunotherapy drug trial were intense, relentless, and remarkable. She was a true warrior who fought till the very end.
- No ordinary moments. We stopped taking the simplest things for granted such as eating, leaving the house and not being ‘tethered’ to the toilet or an IV bag, and sleeping soundly. Doing things together (work or pleasure) became priceless. Laughter and silliness were treasured to combat all the stress and pain. Visits with family and friends were even more cherished. We had a greater appreciation for every extraordinary moment we previously thought was just ordinary.
- Tests of time. We were reminded that it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to buy time; call time out; or beat the clock with stage 4 cancer. Time wasn’t money – it was a zillion times more valuable to spend time together. Killing time was wasting a precious gift. And, there was no better time than the present to share heartfelt feelings, concerns, and joys.
- Beauty. As the cancer and the chemo drugs continued to breakdown and destroy Pat’s physical body things like loss of weight and muscle tone accelerated. The importance of things like bouncy, curly hair; a glowing complexion; and the ‘right’ curves lost their value. Instead, Pat’s ultimate beauty from inside shined brighter than ever. Her smile lit up everyone’s spirit. Her eyes reflected deep emotion, care, and love. The touch of her hand brought immediate warmth deep, deep inside you. Her beauty blossomed.
When asked the greatest lesson she had ever learned, Pat’s reply was “you can never give enough” and “you can never love enough”. These two perspectives defined how she looked at life, related to people, handled challenges, and lived day-to-day. We were so blessed by her perspective and to be a part of her life’s journey.
As Anne Rice reminded us, “One moment the world is as it is. The next, it is something entirely different. Something it has never been before.” Maybe it’s time to stop and look at someone or something from a different perspective!