Death & This Wild and Precious Life

I’m in a gratitude group. We text daily. This month we’ve been appreciating gratitude through the lens of poetry.

Today we read a Summer’s Day by Mary Oliver. You can’t read this poem and not relate in some way.

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean—

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

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?

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?

—Mary Oliver

The summer days of sitting on the grass, watching the ants, blowing on dandelions, and looking for dragonflies. So in the moment. All of it goes on and on with no regard to my current worries and dramas. It reassures me.

My stepmom died two weeks ago. My younger cousin, Marty, died of cancer yesterday. I used to babysit him many, many years ago. He is gone and I’m still here. My brain says the math was correct with my stepmom, but it is all wrong with my cousin. Ms. Oliver sure said it, life is wild and precious.

It’s wild because it can’t be tamed or scripted. Things happen no matter how much we plan, prepare, or worry. A condominium fell down in Miami Florida this week. It just fell down. That is wild.

I saw my grandsons take their first breath. I also saw my stepmom take some of her last. Both equally precious.

When death is on the table, not halfway around the block, we don’t listen to our habitual chatter about what is important. Insightfully we are with what is here right now, right here.

It would seem foolish and vain to squander this moment with disappointment about the four pounds I haven’t been able to lose since COVID became a household name or what that mistake I made means about me


The only place I’ve ever connected with God, a Higher Power, Love, Wisdom, or whatever word aligns you with your spiritual core, is in this moment. Only this moment. Sitting where I’m sitting, being with whatever energy is here now, not the habitual stories my overprotective brain is wanting to bring attention to. Not resisting anything. Letting the energy of life move and push and pull and relax without trying to manipulate it so the storyteller in my head feels in control. Letting it be wild and precious.

How has someone’s death affected you?

Did it change your way of being in the world?

How do you experience life differently?

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