I received word the other day that my 93 year old uncle passed away peacefully in his sleep. He lived a long life and despite a paralyzing accident in his early 30’s, he continued to stay active and keep a sense a humour long after many others would have simply given up. Such a lesson is paramount in how a life should be lived. Often times we get stuck on minor, insignificant hiccups that really mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. Work and play become separate entities and self-care becomes a reminder rather than a necessity.
When another one of my uncle’s became ill with cancer in 2011, his life was cut short way too soon. However, what I learned after his passing was how important the little things were to him. Not unimportant things, but moments and events that really should matter, ones that often take a back seat in our 100 mile an hour world. From family dinners to memory filled tokens of days gone by, each held as much significance in his life as the work demands he experienced being a successful lawyer.
Below are words that my uncle kept framed in his office. They were also on display at his memorial as they clearly held so much importance to him. While the writing is from the 1960’s and the phrasing structure a bit outdated, the message still holds incredible value today. My favourite part is the line that simply states – “be gentle with yourself” – a short yet profound statement with numerous applications.
As you read these words I hope you keep close to your heart the importance of living a life – rather than just trying to navigate through the humdrum checking of daily “to do” lists.
Life is too short not to.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive person, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
Kenyon & Eckhardt Limited, Christmas 1967, Toronto