Lillie Love Tribute

On my Friday commute to work I sometimes hear a tale of someone’s life as recorded through Story Corps. NPR plays these short, oral narratives in which an “average” person recounts some significant moments in his life, or reflects on what really mattered in her every day routine. They are short, pithy, genuine, and often inspiring. Among the laudable characteristics that make humans unique is our ability to tell stories. On this particular Friday I listened to a singularly moving piece, only about 2 minutes long. It was recorded by a woman named Lillie Love who unfortunately passed away two weeks ago at 53 years of age.

She talks about how she mapped out her life at age 13. At 52 she envisioned herself married, with children, perhaps even grandchildren. But the reality of her life unfolded differently- she went through several miscarriages, a divorce, and the implied health problems that may have led to her passing.

She compares this disconnect between our dreams and our actual stories to the folly of designing a dress while you are wearing it.

When Lillie realized she would not be “the wife” or “the mother” she picked up the pieces and determined she would be a terrific sister, friend, and aunt. She states: “The life that I have now is not the life I thought I would have, but is the life perfect for who I am.” Thereby she resists the temptation to project her life in to the future, but rather accepts what the universe brings her, and finds happiness in her present circumstance.

My life is not the one I envisioned when I was 12 either. I’m not much of an outdoorsman, I don’t have kids, and my family ties are different from those of twenty years ago. But I am happy, and I increasingly resolve to search for and create happiness within the stream of time and place that I cannot usually control.

Lillie Love’s words are worth a posthumous listen.

May she rest in peace, and I thank her for the inspiration. ┬áDespite the terrible time pressures of practicing family medicine, I need to turn off the clock every once in a while and just listen to another person’s story as they speak it.

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6 thoughts on “Lillie Love Tribute

  1. gloriamundi

    Thanks Dr Charles, very valuable. “And in this harsh world draw they breath in pain/To tell my story.” To have our stories told and listened to is a deep human need indeed. You remind us of the value of giving our attention entirely to the present moment of someone else’s story.

    Your resolve to find happiness, and create it where you can, in the stream of things you can’t control is such a powerful insight. It seems to me to be related to the giving up of attention to another’s story. The paradox: we give up the effort to control what we can’t, and we find that this letting go actually results in many fewer feelings of out-of-controlness.

    Turning our attention to what is, instead of what we think should be, or could have been if only, or might be if we can just…, seems to be a truly liberating mental state, a more generous way of being, generous to others as well as to ourselves. If life is what happens whilst we are planning something else (designing the dress you’re already wearing – brilliant!) then we’d better live and be in what actually happens here and now.

    And this, I’m finding, is changing my attitude to mortality and dying. We can’t live entirely in the present moment, can we? (Damn! Missed the train again…) But living more often where we are instead of in some imagined alternative seems to me a healthier, happier alternative.
    How sad Lillie has gone, but how inspiring is her little two minute gift to the rest of us.

  2. Michelle W

    Thanks for the inspiring read and listen. I’ve been there two: mapping out life only to find myself on a very different path. My sister likes to say that God laughs when we make plans, which is difficult for a Type-A personality type like myself to grapple with. I think the ideal balance is to plan as if you would live forever, but to live as if you would die tomorrow. Taking time to think can clear the fog so that you can see the path that much better.

  3. Susan

    Thank you Dr. Charles for a beautiful post. I never prepared for widowhood or a child with mental illness but that was the hand I was dealt and I’ve sure learned a lot of lessons though not with as much grace as Lillie.

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