“We have only now, only this single, eternal moment opening and unfolding before us, day and night.”  –Jack Kornfield

How do we live “in the moment”?  What does that really mean?  Why does it sound so simple, yet prove so illusive, for so many of us?

This was recently brought home to me in a way I can only describe as transformative. My husband and I met my cousin and his wife in California. My cousin has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He is doing well, on a pre-chemo medication that has fewer side effects, but his energy, hair length, gaze and laughter have changed forever.

And yet.

And yet.

Our goal was to find joy. No one needed to state the obvious: live in the moment.

It was terribly difficult. There seemed no place to behave from – no making light of, no hiding, no detour. The fragility of life pulsed in every moment, even as we extolled the beauty of flowers, trees, birds, each other.

My cousin became our mentor and our guide.  Always a sensitive, artistic, and intelligent person, he crafted the ability to savor every moment, without forcing happiness or soliciting despair.

I learned from him that optimism is not about embracing hope. It is about life itself: lifting a shell from the beach, laughing with the waitress as we order breakfast, allowing our gaze to settle on one another’s eyes.

We were liberated from any speculation about the future, any planning, any philosophizing about the state of the world. For those precious days, we lived outside of Time. Nothing to be accomplished or figured out or mastered. Only a glance at my cousin’s face, a noticing of the slowing of his steps, someone saying, “Shall we sit for awhile?”

My cousin would smile. Not because he was being rescued, but because he was being seen.

We sat at many an outdoor table, a wide umbrella shielding him from the sun. How we noticed the children! A little girl giggling as her father jostled her, a baby reaching tiny fingers to a low hanging palm, pink buds poised for eruption, our collective gaze ever-turning toward each new life form.

We created our own rules of the road. No one had to set limits, or care take or make a disclaimer about what was or was not a “depressing” topic. We moved toward beauty and joy and mischief and silliness and silence, allowing this duel reality to define our little group. What duality, you ask? Life and death, connection and separation; joy and a darkness we cannot know.

Saying goodbye at the airport my cousin wrapped us in his long arms, the four of us, one.

Away from him I hold it still, learning, as he is learning, to greet this eternal moment, opening, unfolding, in the shadow of his eyes.

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