Friday, June 8, 2007

Wisdom from Anne with an "e"

We recently got TiVo. It is mainly for me while I'm nursing but since getting it I realized that the only shows that I really enjoy are crime-dramas and as much a fan of them as I am I can't really have CSI, Law and Order and Bones on during the day with Moses running around. Plus if you watch too many of those shows it you get preoccupied with thinking too much about how you would cover up your crimes and how that one hair in the shower drain would give everything away. So, I've moved on to re-reading the Anne of Green Gables books. The other genre that I love.
There is something so comforting about returning to those books that assisted in your formation as a young lady and to take a look at those characters who you emulated. It's so familiar. At the same time, your place in life colors what stands out in each new reading.
I recently read a section in Anne of the Island that I had formerly skimmed over and this time I can't seem to get out of my head. Anne is home for the summer and finds out that her old school chum (side note: every time I read these books Anne-ish words seem to make their way into my vocabulary for weeks afterwards), Ruby Gilles, is dying of consumption. Ruby and her family won't admit the reality and continue to make plans for her future. Finally the night before she dies she tells Anne that she knows she's dying and that she's been afraid to acknowledge it because she's terrified to die. She says:

"I get so frightened - and - and - homesick. Heaven must be very beautiful, of course, the Bible says so - but, Anne, it won't be what I've been used to."

Here are Anne's thoughts on that last point:

"It was sad, tragic - and true! Heaven could not be what Ruby had been used to. There had been nothing in her gay, frivolous life, her shallow ideals and aspirations, to fit her for that great change, or make the life to come seem to her anything but alien and unreal and undesirable...

"Anne sat in a pain that was almost intolerable. She could not tell comforting falsehoods; and all that Ruby said was horribly true. She was leaving everything she cared for. She had laid up her treasures on earth only; she had lived solely for the little things of life - the things that pass - forgetting the great things that go onward into eternity, bridging the gulf between the two lives and making death a mere passing from one dwelling to the other - from twilight to unclouded day. God would take care of her there - Anne believed - she would learn - but now it was no wonder her sould clung, in blind helplessness, to the only things she knew and loved...

"Anne walked home very slowly in the moonlight...[in her] the deeps had been stirred. It must not be with her as with poor butterfly Ruby. When she came to the end of one life it must not be to face the next with the shrinking terror of something wholly different - something for which accustomed thought and ideal and aspiration had unfitted her. The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; the highest must be sought and followed; the life of heaven must be begun here on earth."

I struggle in remembering to hold on to the perspective that we must become familiar with heaven through our earthly life so that passing on will be going from "twilight to unclouded day". At a retreat I was on a couple years ago Sr. Ann Shields (wisdom from another Ann :)) asked, "how often do you think about heaven? How often do you imagine it? Do you dwell on heaven?" I try, feebly, to keep an "eternal perspective" so I appreciate the reminders that pop up when you are least expecting them - like in the Anne books. I don't think that I'd have gotten the same sort of admonition if I had continued my indulgence of crime dramas.

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