The willow tree was beautiful on top; colourful and vibrant, but it had no roots whatsoever. It floated above the ground.
I wondered for a moment how it managed to live up to this point. How was it getting the nourishment it needs to grow? I didn’t really ask any more questions. I just kept contemplating its beauty.
However, as I got closer, a feeling of sadness came over me. The branches were falling to the ground like giant tears. It was so sad, even the leaves were drooping down. Slowly approaching, I asked: “What is wrong Willow?”
It couldn’t answer. I think it wasn’t sure.
I came closer and touched its bark. I could now feel its heart, its energy. He was disconnected from the ground, he was slowly dying. He was born to be beautiful, to be part of the big picture that God has painted. He was part of it and wanted to remain in it.
“Willow, do you know how you got uprooted from the earth?”
– “I was a small willow; I wasn’t sure where to plant my roots. I ignored my basic needs and floated around where the wind was blowing. I knew it wasn’t really the way to be for a tree, but it was enjoyable. I could see the world that way; I had no strings attached, no responsibilities. In my willow heart, I assumed that this is what freedom was.”
“Willow, what about your family, your friends? Was it sad for them to not have you around?”
– “Mmm, I guess so. I must have hurt them with my selfishness.” The branches of the tree then bent like a sad frown.
“I didn’t mean to make you cry, Willow.”
– “No, it’s OK. I’m just realizing how self-centered and heartless I was.”
“Please don’t be like this Willow. You know how life goes. We don’t know everything. We have to believe in ourselves and trust that we are doing what is best at the time. How did you feel when you were floating around?”
– “At first I thought I was happy, but I soon realized that something was missing; I knew that I wasn’t happy. I felt a big void. I kept going, not knowing any better. Afterwards, there were lots of trees around me doing the same thing. They seemed to be happy.”
“Do you think they were sad inside too? Nobody knows or can judge how the others feel, it is up to them to lead their life the way they intend it. You are the master of your own destiny, I’m sure I am not the first one to tell you that, right Willow?”
– “I guess I’ve heard it before, but I chose to believe it wasn’t for me since I knew what I was doing. Or, I thought I did.”
“So then, what happened Willow?”
– “Well the void kept getting bigger and bigger. Therefore, I decided to say goodbye to what I thought was my life and freedom to return to my home base.”
“That must have been difficult? You had been living that way pretty much all your life, right?”
– “You know, I wasn’t going to lose anything or anybody because they were solidly anchored inside my heart, inside my trunk. So, I made the trip back, by myself. Just like the first time. This time, I was returning to something I knew or so I thought. My family was there, my roots. I knew this new beginning wasn’t going to be a lonely one. I returned in a misty February. I had a plan, planting my roots close to where I grew up. I was so excited to be back. I was there, where I believed I belonged. I was still alone though. Even now after some time has passed and I got established, I felt pretty lonely. I actually felt lonelier than back at my old place. Why was that? It was making me so sad that people had moved on.”
“But Willow, you left and they went about their lives. Why is that making you sad? Were you expecting them to wait around for you? They planted their roots and went about their lives just like you did. Besides, you are back, you seem fine. Aren’t you happy now?”
– “No, I’m sick. I’m dying inside. And, I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t want to die, do you hear me?”
“Stop Willow, just stop. Firstly, you are not going to die. You have everything you need to get better, to keep growing. Just listen carefully to what I am about to tell you. Are you listening Willow? This is very important. Here’s the secret to life, to love and happiness.
– “Wow! Yes, yes! I feel whole, I feel like I belong. Thank you for giving me a second chance.” Willow was crying of happiness. “It is unbelievable to feel alive again. I am so appreciative, how can I ever repay you?”
“You don’t need to repay me Willow, just spread my words and my message. Carry on with your life, with that message in your heart, in your core. Be happy and communicate love to others with your beauty.”
I have some regrets in my life. Most I have forgiven myself for because I have learned that I was always doing my best at the time. But some of the most painful realities are when you lose someone you love and you realize you missed precious opportunities to be with them or to tell them how much they meant to you.
My family’s move from Ontario to Alberta changed my relationship with all of my friends and sadly, my friendship with Julie was put on the back-burner as I tended to my family’s needs. She experienced a divorce and I wasn’t there for her. She was diagnosed with cancer and I wasn’t there. I moved back to Ontario and even then, I missed her 40th birthday party when she begged me to come out for it. Julie never held that against me and as I say, I have forgiven myself because I know that my family challenges just wouldn’t allow me to do all the things I wish I could for my friends.
In 2015, I was in the middle of an election campaign and had been working insane hours, but when Julie sent me a text to tell me she had just received some terrible news, I could hear it in every word that she was scared, she was sad and she needed her friends. I had every reason in the world to send her a text back to say I wish I could do more but I couldn’t. I was broke. I was so busy. I didn’t know how I could find someone to stay with the boys. But I couldn’t bear to let another moment pass me by that I would regret later. I scrambled to find a way to get away for 12 hours. I dropped everything and I flew to Montreal to see her in the hospital.
I have NEVER felt happier about a decision despite the sad circumstances that brought me there. The joy that visit brought both Julie and I is a feeling I will remember for the rest of my life. I didn’t know if I would ever see my friend again, so there was more honesty spilled out in those few hours of conversation, than I have ever spoken before. I will never forget it.
In the cab heading back to the airport, I sobbed my heart out. At that point, Julie was devastated to learn the cancer had advanced to a point where there was nothing more they could do. She had made the painful decision to stop all treatment and believed she had only days left. I just could not believe that her life could truly be over when there was so much light and love left in her.
Fortunately, there were some twists in her prognosis and Julie was afforded a few more months of living in Hospice at one of the most wonderful places I’ve ever been, that I’ll tell you about in future posts. But my greatest take-away that I share with you is: don’t live with regret. If you know someone is living on borrowed time, do what you can to connect. Say what needs to be said. Express your love. Soak up their light and lessons.
If you haven’t already, please read Part 1 and Part 2 of Sharing Her Gift. As always, it pleases me so much that you are taking the time to read this. Julie is very much with us right now and I can feel her shining bright. Please join us every Sunday as we post her book in sections, lesson by lesson. It is my honour to share her gift with you and we hope it brings light to you in your own journeys and struggles.
– Stacey aka WillowjakMama
* Sharing the Gift *
In the midst of an idyllic life, a cancer diagnosis hit Julie Racine at 41 like a ton of bricks. After her initial grief and the shedding of many tears, Julie soon started to view her cancer as a gift. Yes – a gift! She viewed this as an extraordinary opportunity to transform the pitfalls and challenges in her life into something powerfully positive. Gathering her courage and putting pen to paper, Julie committed herself to sharing her gift with everyone; hoping that others as well, would discover the gift of love that could be found in the face of adversity. With “Sharing the Gift”, Julie Racine imparts her unique perspective on the human existence and proposes an enlightened and generous approach to embracing life. Living mindfully with nature and in peace within herself, Julie sows the seeds with words of hope and invites the reader to trust in the power and gift of love.
“Trust, let go and believe. Love will carry you through the rest.”
Julie Racine (1973-2015)
(This series has been posted with permission from Julie’s mother Helene Beauregard and is fulfilling Stacey’s promise to share Julie’s gift through her writing)