Today has been a day of contrasts. This morning, I visited a friend who is in the very last stage of her life’s journey. An woman of irrepressible energy with a sharp mind, illness has robbed her of vitality and – an even greater tragedy – the ability to communicate. Whilst often her eyes tell the story, words which she once wielded so ably have deserted her and to be in her presence gives birth to a profound helplessness where my prayers though heartfelt are equally mute. I have rarely felt so powerless to help and I am sure those feelings are intensified in those caring daily for her.
This afternoon was very different. For months, since the unrelenting heat of the summer sapped energy and the demands of the autumn term depleted time, the garden has stared at me accusingly. The irritant Bugloss has sunk its invasive taps deep into the soil, and the only green in the decimated lawn is the chickweed. To gaze at the garden has ceased to bring any pleasure, only a sense of impotent hopelessness. But this, unlike the situation from this morning, is something I can do something about. So today I made a small start, tackling a tiny corner of the rampant disorder, cutting back and extricating at least some of the stubborn invaders. There is a long way to go until I can look out again and smile, but it was a beginning and one which, as unruly encroachers were removed, uncovered the first snowdrop.
Some things we cannot change, though our simple presence is not insignificant, and others we can. There is great insight in the Serenity prayer: knowing what we can or cannot alter and tackling or accepting as appropriate is deeply sage. And, just sometimes, there can be hidden treasures in either path.