Back when I was struggling so hard to become a published author, I joined a women’s group that would meet and process our lives. At one gathering, we bandied about our ideas for the topic du jour when I blurted, “I don’t know what my purpose is.”
I had quit my job to write a book, yet I could not find a publisher. If I was not going to be Fawn Germer, the author, who was I going to be?
“I don’t know mine, either,” said my friend Teresa.
“Me, either,” said Pam.
“I don’t know,” said Tami.
One by one, every one of us admitted we did not know our purpose in life. As we went around the room, I felt certain that Bette Haase would be able to enlighten us, seeing as how she had ovarian cancer and was taking chemo. Certainly that experience had shown her the meaning of life.
But when her turn came, Bette shrugged.
Over the next year, we all walked our paths. I persevered and found a publisher. Teresa went back to school to become a nurse practitioner. Tami went back to school to become a nurse anesthetist. Pam got a new job.
And Bette? She kept living. She hiked, she traveled, she laughed.
She was there for my first book signing, a gift of presence that I know drained her. I visited her in the hospital the day before leaving on my book tour. It was the first time she acknowledged she knew she was dying.
When I finished my tour, Bette was starting her decline. I was so impressed by how her family had closed ranks around her. Each of her seven siblings took a weeklong shift in her caregiving. Her son was by her side the whole time.
I wrote her obituary. And when I wrote it, I thought back to the day when we were all stumped about our purpose in life. Throughout her illness, Bette dove into her life.
I remember going kayaking with her to Caladesi Island State Park on a beautiful December day. She dove into that frigid water.
“Are you crazy?” I shouted. No Floridian in her right mind would ever do that, but she did.
“It’s beautiful!” she shouted back.
The way she lived — really lived — taught me the simple answer to our purpose in life.
Your purpose in life is to live your life.