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Unity of Birmingham's Guest Writer Series

“In the end, your individuality is determined not only by what you decide to do, but by what you decide not to do, not only by what you cling to, but what you let go.”

I Ching: The Book of Change

A friend of mine has died. She did it with the same courage and curiosity she

always employed in living her life. She’d been all over this planet, not as a tourist, but as

a pilgrim. She felt most at home in places as foreign as the ocean is to a

honeybee—India, West Africa, Haiti, Bosnia, Kenya. She never traveled to just see, and

shop, and consume, but to immerse herself in the culture, to lend a hand, to join in the

everyday lives of the people and offer herself to their service.

I’ve never known anyone like her, and mostly, I’ve observed from a distance. Her

exuberance for life created a magnetic field that drew people straight to her before they

could find something strong to hold onto. And, you see, I’m kin to that honeybee—I live

close to the safety of the hive. She, on the other hand, sailed on whatever breeze took

her and made it her own.

We all choose what to keep and what to give away, don’t we? But sometimes life

takes away what we did not choose to give. Then the choice becomes how do we live

with that loss. My friend knew from the moment of her birth that this earthly existence

holds both in equal measure—both love and loss, both light and darkness, both life and

death. Like Lady Justice, she knew that the scales are balanced, favoring neither.

Knowing and accepting this gave her the freedom to soar without fear.

I am proud to have called her friend—to have experienced first-hand her exotic

differences. From hospital nursing to art therapy, from labyrinth building to belly

dancing, to owning and restoring a sacred Cherokee cave, her coin-clad feet have

danced a million miles. I have watched from the safety of the ground as she flew by and

dazzled me with her courage and freedom. With a heart bent on service, she led people

through the worst moments of their lives and through the very best ones, with music and dancing, with art and labyrinth walking, and most of all with compassion. I will be forever grateful and astonished when I remember the zest with which she lived every moment of her life.

She left an indelible imprint on me and a dash of brilliant color on this drab old world. Godspeed, Annette, my beautiful friend.

Jane Philips

Jane Philips is a retired Special Education teacher, Licensed Professional Counselor, and Licensed Massage Therapist. She has also lead Spirituality Groups, Wisdom Circles, drumming circles, and she wrote a daily blog for twelve years called Spiritually Speaking.

Jane is currently working on a memoir titled, Old Crazy Town. She is a fifth-generation quilter.

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