I got so sad the other day when I realized that being dead would mean never smiling at anyone ever again!
The first person I can remember commenting on my smile was Pierre Elliott Trudeau on a high school trip to Ottawa. Many people since have told me I have a nice smile, but because I never properly smiled at myself in the mirror and I was too self-conscious when being photographed to fully smile, I didn’t know what they were talking about. Then I started skyping with dear ones, and in that little live video screen of myself I saw the smile I gave with love. So that was the smile! (Now I make sure I am smiling at the person taking the photo, rather than worrying about the camera, so there are a few happy photos of me!)
My dad keeps expressing wonder that I am still smiling, despite this illness. In recent years, smiling for me has become a way of giving love not just to those close to me, but to strangers, students in the classroom, anyone I greet. I especially like smiling because it’s a socially acceptable, non-intrusive, immediate way of communicating feelings of love and good wishes—blessings, if we want to use spiritual terms. I don’t think people realize that this is what I am doing when I smile at them, but when someone smiles back, I know they have received something positive from me. It doesn’t cost me anything (except deeper smile lines on my face) and is so easy to do. For me, it’s a kind of joyous spiritual practice. All it takes is the desire to give something good (kindness, understanding, a sense of connection or fun, encouragement) to another. And having that desire to give feels wonderful!
So while I’m sad that I won’t be able to give in this way when I’m gone, I also realized that all of you could give those smiles for me. I can’t tell you how much better that makes me feel! Imagining all of you smiling at each other, giving love, creating more goodness in the world, more than I could ever give or create on my own, that is a true solace for me.
So please, smile for me. Smile at strangers in the street, the clerk in the store, your friends and family. Smile at someone you don’t like. Smile especially at those who look like they need a little love. You can even start now! I will be so grateful!