This is the day that the Lord has made;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
The kind of cancer I had was not life-threatening, but because of the diagnosis, I came to know more directly than ever before that I am not immune from catastrophic illness and death. With this refresher course in personal mortality came a heightened capacity to taste the sweetness of life.
Life is often hard. And mundane. But sometimes we are able to notice the gifts a day holds. Big gifts and little gifts. These moments of noticing and taking in the gifts of life can transform both the difficult and the mundane into experiences of grace.
When we are reminded that our days are numbered, there can be times when we are able to see the blessedness of life. We are able to see the amazing gift it is to be breathing, talking, walking here on earth.
I had a few such unexpected moments after being diagnosed. These moments had been described to me earlier by a good friend who is a cancer survivor as “moments of clarity.”
One day while I was walking from my office to a nearby restaurant for lunch, I felt like I stepped into a different dimension. Colors were suddenly more brilliant. The air felt magically charged. I felt stunningly alive. Moments of clarity like this did not last long or come often. But they were touchstones. They reminded me of how little we see and how little we know of the glories of this life and the life to come. These moments of clarity felt like moments of heaven on earth. Perhaps they are little glimpses of heaven. Perhaps they are glimpses of the presence of heaven here with us all the time. Whatever they are, they are gifts to be savored.
One of the impacts of these moments was that for several months after my experience with cancer I would wake up in the morning and look at the calendar hanging on our bedroom wall. As I looked at that day’s date, I would feel a wash of awe that I had been given the gift of this new day. Before I thought about what the day might hold or all I needed to attend to, I would first experience this gentle sensation pass through me. June 5. August 20. October 15. Whatever the day might be, I would look at the number on the calendar like I was looking at something that glimmered, something sacred, something filled with light and air and kindness, a personal gift beautifully wrapped, delivered at my doorstep.
I did not try to do this. It just happened. But the experience was so pleasant that I sometimes looked back at the calendar a second time, not to note the date again, but to feel that sense of blessed awe pour out on me and move through me one more time.
Sometimes celebrating each day may not look like much of a celebration. When we are physically ill or in emotional distress, just getting through the day, one day at a time may be all we can do.
The wisdom of living one day at a time is wisdom that Jesus taught. The Gospels record Jesus teaching us to trust God to provide for us each day. Jesus invites us to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, how they do not toil, yet they have everything they need and more. He goes on to challenge us to consider if worrying can add one hour to our lives. Then he invites us to let go of all worry about tomorrow because we can trust that God who made us and values us will provide for us (Matthew 6:25-34).
Today is where we are. Today is what we have been given. Today we will be given the help and strength and grace we need for whatever the day brings. Life comes to us, a sweet gift, one day at a time.
When we are anxious and afraid, it is often because we are imagining difficulties that may arise the next day or the next week or the next year. When we find our minds time traveling in this way, we do well to come back to this moment, this day. We can trust that whatever comes our way tomorrow will come wrapped in the grace and strength we will need at the time. Today is the day we have been given, and in whatever way we can, we can honor the gift of today and even celebrate it.
Sometimes it helps to find simple ways to celebrate the gift of each day of life. Our celebration might be in the form of a prayer of gratitude for the day in the morning or in the evening, or both. Or it might be the celebration of standing and lifting our arms each morning in a gesture of receptivity. Or of lifting our voice in song. Or making music. Or expressing gratitude to the people in our life for the ordinary ways they bless us. Or lighting a candle and observing a moment of quiet awareness.
Each day is holy. Each day is a gift. May you find ways to celebrate.
When you don’t know what to do…celebrate each day.
Questions for reflection and discussion
1. What gifts have you noticed today?
2. What might help you celebrate the gift of each day?