By William H. Murray
I lay in the hospital bed thinking “This can’t be true! Boy, I bought the farm on this one!” Suffering multiple organ failure, I had just received a grim diagnosis that I would be having a danger-laden surgery that would alter my life forever. It was the wages of a life that seemed so successful, but was undergirded by the troika of fear, doubt, and guilt – a three-legged stool.
It would be about a year before I could have the surgery, and I was filled with terror as to how I would live through that year. So I raced to develop and embrace a holistic (holy?) recovery plan to gain the necessary health to avoid, against all odds, the surgery. My holistic plan, fully supported by my doctors, brought the physical, spiritual, and emotional healing that I needed, and surgery became unnecessary.
However, my healing ushered in a new crisis: how was I going to make a living? I had been laid-off from my employer of 30 years and was in no condition to conduct a vigorous job search. After a brief wallowing in my financial bleakness, I figured that I could live indefinitely off of my retirement savings, though it would be an order of magnitude less than my former income.
Although I would miss flying to Paris for escargots, at a moment’s notice, I also felt a sense of peace that I wouldn’t be living that crazy lifestyle anymore, a lifestyle that was ultimately the cause of my illness. I guess I was at the golden moment in my life where I wanted something more fulfilling – sort of a “been there, done that, what’s my next adventure?” After much prayer and soul-searching, I felt drawn to the two non-family loves of my life: church and ballet. I had been a professional ballet dancer in my 20’s, and had always been active in my church. My children were grown and on their own, and I was debt-free. As I thought about this plan, I grew more and more excited and figured that I could devote half of my days to ballet activities (management consulting, simple stage roles, ushering, etc.), and half to church activities, mainly at the diocesan level (management consulting, ministries, study, etc.). I knew that I would be downsizing my lifestyle to a fairly ascetic one, and that I would be sacrificing a lot of things that had made me sincerely happy, including many of my friends who still enjoyed an affluent, though wise, lifestyle. Gone would be the fancy parties, dining out with them, etc. I would miss their company, but I really liked where my life was going.
Much to my surprise, my friends did not abandon me! They knew my financial situation, and the altruistic reasons for it. When necessary, they took care of my expenses when I was with them, and they still included me in their activities. What I realized was that over all these years I had surrounded myself with intensely spiritual people, and yes, they were churched according to their beliefs. Their affluence did not define them any more than one facet defines a diamond. Indeed, it is not wealth or poverty that defines the sin, it’s what we do with our lot in life and our connection to God that most fully defines our glory. Indeed, I had now regained my belief at last.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain…a time to tear, and a time to mend, a time to be silent, and a time to speak.” – Ecclesiastes 3: 5 & 7
Bill Murray was born 1952, raised in a suburb of Boston. Attended The Governor’s Academy for prep school, then the University of California, Santa Barbara, graduating with a degree in Psychology and in Cultural Anthropology. Was a professional ballet dancer in his 20’s. Became VP of a large high-tech company. Raised Methodist, then joined the Episcopal Church in 1979, currently attending St. Bartholomew’s Church in Poway, CA. Serve as Chalice Bearer, Lay Eucharistic Minister, and Order of St. Luke. Volunteers at the Office if the Bishop of San Diego. Completed Cursillo in 1997.