This is one of many versions of an ancient Indian tale, which came to my mind this week.Each day, for many years, a beggar appears before the king. Without speaking, he gives the king a piece of fruit, which the king never acknowledges, but simply throws away. One day, the king gives the fruit to a pet monkey, who bites into it and reveals a gleaming jewel. Curious about the other pieces of fruit, the King investigates and discovers that they have all been tossed through a window into a locked chamber in his treasury. When he enters the room, he finds only rotten fruit-the gems have disappeared.
The beggar’s gift? The day itself – fleeting, precious, and as perishable as the freshly-picked fruit. The king, distracted by the affairs of his kingdom, threw away the greatest gift of all – to live in joy in our radiant, imperfect world.
Earlier this week, Springs artist Timber Kirwan ended his own life. He was gentle and sweet-tempered, a gifted artist, a man rich in friends, who seemed to float serenely through life’s turmoil. A memorial site was created on FaceBook, which hundreds have joined. His friends remembered the richness of his life, not the darkness which consumed him.
The day of his passing, a friend called to ask whether I knew a good art restoration person. Barbara Webb (Bobbie to her friends and family) had a family portrait which needed cleaning. I gave her a name, and we talked about her many projects, and about returning to Grace Episcopal on Palm Sunday after two years in exile. Bobbie was excited and busy, living in the moment and, with the sunny optimism that has always characterized her, anticipating the delights of days yet to come.
Bobbie is in her 94th year.
How many days did Timber throw away, overtaken by despair? And how fortunate are we who still live and can treasure each day!
So this Sunday, when I once again enter the church where, so many years ago, my parents were the first couple to be married beneath its soaring vaults, I’ll say a prayer for Timber, and offer thanks for the day itself.
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