A life well lived

Last night’s edition of The Hour on CBC contained the final TV interview for one of Canada’s most remarkable people. Dying of cancer, “Canada’s Conscience” June Callwood invited George into her home for a final chat with Canadian television media. It was a wonderful interview that was perhaps a bit more personal than I expected, given her wealth of life experience in social reform in Canada and globally, but regardless of that (maybe even because of it) its well worth a few minutes of your time whether you’ve heard of June Callwood or not.

There was one specific part, however, that was truly remarkable, a statement that seemed so natural coming from her its only afterward that the true scope and beauty of what she said is apparent. George asked her about getting to the stage in your life when you are looking forward to seeing “What’s next.” Her answerr was truly remarkable, IMO …

JC: No, there’s nothing next. That’s all right … what you get is a life. A baby is a miracle … you open a baby’s fist and they will close their fist on your hand and hold on. What they’ve got is a life and [the chance] to live it as best they can. That’s what you get and you don’t need anything else.

GS: You don’t believe in God, I guess, if there’s nothing after this …

JC: I believe in kindness. I believe its very communicable, just as meanness is too, but even more so, more powerful.

One of the reasons June Callwood is such a respected social commentator in Canada is precisely for the clarity of thought above. At first glance, it sounds very secular, very atheist … she declares outright that there is no afterlife, probably the most atheist thing you can do without directly declaring God’s non-existence. But there is a deep spirituality in her words, when we look a little longer, and she gives us the essential nugget of what our lives mean. Even religious leaders through history have agreed with her, though they’ve usually said it differently, and then been taken out of context by other, lesser people. As we heard before, Jesus asks us “I was hungry, did you feed me?” and tells us to help the stranger fallen among thieves. That sounds far more like “a life and [the chance] to live it as best they can” than more esoteric theological concepts. Buddha teaches us not to focus on the end of life or the afterlife, but rather on the path we choose to follow while living our lives. In fact, all religion, at its best, is focussed on the goal of getting us to live better, even if it uses the after-life as ‘bait.’

June Callwood is remarkable for many things in her life, but clarity of thought and expression has always been one of them. In this interview, she demonstrates that even at the end of her life, she hasn’t lost that clarity … a lifetime of experience has instead honed it to a razor sharpness. We often ask what the meaning of life is, as though its some great mystery. Last night on The Hour, June Callwood explained it in very simple, easy to understand terms … we’d all do well to listen.

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2 Responses

  1. A Life Well Lived, indeed. June touched my life and millions of others and we’re all living better lives because we were given the Gift of June. June and I exchanged letters, written by June, letters that came in the mail, for over fifteen years, As busy as she was, not one letter went without a reply. This week, her last letter came. She was not well enough to write and asked Jesse, her daughter, to reply. She is dying. She didn’t want to leave an unanswered letter. That’s the kindness June spoke of many times; the simple act of holding a door open, writing a letter to a ‘pal’. I’ll close as we did in our letters-hugs, hugs. Annie B. Barnes, Sundre, AB

  2. A farwell for a woman who unlike a lot of us you talk about doing good in the World she was one of those rare individuals who actually went a head and worked toward making a better place in the World and in the end someone who that even if we don’t do as much as she did maybe the One thing we can take away isthat eveyone of us can help to change their World at least a small part of the world even if it’s just to rembember to be kind to One another.

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