I’ll never forget the day my dad cried over trees. A couple of months before he died, in 2011, we were sitting in the den of my parents’ home, him in his favorite leather chair and me curled up on the couch, looking out the big picture window at their heavily wooded backyard.
My dad’s cancer treatments were going pretty well and he was fiercely optimistic about his future. But, looking back on that day, I realize there was also a little piece of him that knew he was dying. I asked him what was making him happy that day. And that’s when he looked out the window at the lush green trees he’d seen a million times before and his bottom lip started to quiver.
His emotion hit me like a lightning bolt as our small talk turned real serious, real fast.
He was feeling so moved by the goodness and gracefulness in those trees — the aliveness, the lushness, the history, the resiliency. And he was seeing those gentle giants in a new way, with the slightest suspician his view might soon be changing.
This is what I’ve noticed dying people do: they see beauty with their eyes and hearts wide open, blindsided all at once by the agony and euphoria of seeing it, really seeing it, for the first time – and maybe the last. My dad is not the only one I’ve seen brought to tears by the soul-stirring beauty that most of us miss.
In fact, I’ve seen it in patients at the hospice care home where we’ve spent the last 17 days with my Nana. Though she’s always noticed beauty in the little things, something has shifted as she faces the final stages of her journey with cancer. Her focus on what matters has deepened. In the hallway, for instance, when she sees fellow patient Clarissa – a young woman with cornrows and tattoos who’s been battling cancer for a year – they quietly embrace and say they love each other. And they mean it. They may never have crossed paths in their old lives, but here – in this place where what’s different about them no longer matters – they are willing to be soooo vulnerable and authentic together, it’s breathtakingly beautiful.
I feel good about sharing our hospice journey on Instagram (and love that it’s touched some of you), but sometimes I notice that while I’m taking pictures of beauty in our midst, Nana’s actually breathing it in and holding it close – like she’s taking a snapshot with her soul. Letting the beauty seep in so deep, a picture can’t do it justice. It inspires me to step back and do the same.
When I first deepened my own relationship with everyday beauty eight years ago, it transformed me. And when I’m leading a community of women through the process, I witness the same kinds of change; there’s a tangible shift from going through the motions to joyfully attracting meaningful abundance, letting in what really matters – even if it brings us to tears. It starts with simply remembering to look up as we plow through our days. Today, we can choose to let beauty in and seize the day, the way so many people who are dying wish they had all along.
Note: If you feel ready for that kind of deep dive into cultivating your most beautiful life, I’m teaching my 4 Weeks to Happiness: The Art of Choosing Beauty ecourse next month – and it’s the only time I’m leading this course in 2014. If you’re longing for a powerful shift, and to connect with other dear hearts who are ready too, I hope you’ll sign up. The $30 off early bird special ends Friday at midnight central; just enter the code earlybird at checkout. Full details here.