Return Again: To your one wild and precious life

Yesterday, many of us in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett gathered to celebrate the life of our friend, John Duktig.  Several lines from Mary Oliver were terribly poignant in our gathering not the least of which:

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

That John’s passing was too soon was evident to us all.  Other things became evident, too. As family and friends shared remembrances, it became clear how John’s life was a returning, again and again to who he was.  The little boy who was always driven by curiosity into the natural world of animals and creatures.  The grown man who was guided by a curiosity-become-compassion for animals and humans alike.  John’s sister acknowledged what John had shared with some of us over the years–a very painful childhood–which had its own return in John’s ability to seek, to question and to choose compassion over bitterness and regret.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?

I couldn’t help but hear these words of Oliver’s in John’s life.  Paying attention, he knew how to do.  Falling down into the grass, exploring the grass and fallen trees and what was living under them, he knew how to do.  How to be idle and blessed?  In John and Karen’s living room, they have two recliners facing–not the television, but the deck where the bird feeders are, so that they could sit, be idle and blessed by what nature served up for them. Many might say that these things are in themselves a special kind of prayer.

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

John’s life teaches me that each of us has the opportunity to return to who we are, to the circumstances that we were born into, to the inherent curiosities that are our own, and make something deeply meaningful of them.  He has taught me that asking questions is always a good thing, that asking good questions is, in its own right, a return that can take us to deep places:  in ourselves, in our relationships and in the scope of our lives.

In gratitude for John’s one wild and precious life.

Bob Patrick

*excerpts taken from “The Summer Day,” by Mary Oliver

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