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The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

– William Stafford

This November 6th will be the sixteenth anniversary of my father’s passing. I can remember that day like it was yesterday. It was the day, I believe, my dad found his ‘thread’.

He was sitting on the edge of his bed, slumped over and weakened by metastatic cancer and months and months of grueling chemotherapy and radiation. Just the two of us in the room, he looked over at me with a grin and winked. It wasn’t uncommon for Dad to wink at me, but this time was different. This wink was, “I have a secret, and I’m not telling.” 

As I was teaching yoga recently, the memory of my dad’s passing and that mysterious final wink flashed before me. I had used the poem The Way It Is by William Stafford as the inspiration for the class. I invited the participants, and myself, to set an intention and to follow that intention as a thread throughout. At one point, I wondered how many false threads I had followed through the course of my life, thinking that it was the one I was supposed to hold on to.

I thought, what’s the litmus test to find out if the thread you’re holding is the one you’re meant to follow?

That’s when the memory of Dad’s wink surfaced as the last lesson he had for me.

I believe that death came to visit Dad earlier that day. And Dad looked death square in the eyes and said, “Not yet.” Dad had found his thread and he realized that there were still a few inches left. Later that evening, not quite an hour after my brothers and sisters came for their final goodbyes, Dad took his last breaths while Mom and I stood by his side. I knew almost instantly what his thread was. It was the love he had for his family. It was love that made him bold enough to stand up to death and say “Not yet. Not until I see my family one last time, no matter how much pain I’m in.” He was willing to prolong his suffering to follow that thread.

Do you know what thread you are following? 

To explore these kinds of questions, then join me this September 16-20 for a Long-Weekend Rewilding Retreat in Central Oregon.

Tom Pierson

Author Tom Pierson

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