It is with a tender heart…

It is with a tender heart I share the news of Lillas’s passing.

Lillas Hatala, my dear and best friend, long-time colleague, and co-creator of Women in Leadership for Life, passed away peacefully with her children by her side, on September 21.

Lillas’s faith and ability to appreciate every moment was remarkable.  In an article co-written with her step-son Andrew, she refers to ‘navigating a life-threatening illness, becoming a widow, and all the accompanying losses and grief, and in time, emerging with profound gratitude, love and joy’.   Her words carry important messages for all of us:

The truth is, I’ve yearned for a softer, sweeter and gentler life for a very long time. In a strange and surreptitious way, I have that now. I had to let go of being in control of my life. I had to let go of all expectations of my future. In that dark- ness, I realized, I have put myself under so much pressure and responsibility all my life to hold it all together. It’s time for me to let it all go, and quietly rest into being. 
I am currently on maintenance therapy, which means I am living in the mystery. I surrender again and again, living moment to moment. So, here I am, a spark of the calm, joyous divine. Devastatingly beautiful. 

Even in her last few months, Lillas exuded love. This legacy of love is captured in the beautiful words of her daughter, Marie:

 Lillas lived her life with an unbreakable sense of possibility, delight, and presence. She uplifted all those around her. Even through her difficult cancer journey, she would reflect on her life with a smile of gratitude. She embraced every win and every setback as an opportunity to grow and serve.

In her own words … “I am living in the mystery. That means I choose to surrender day by day. So here I am, a spark of the joyous Divine. What will I do with this one precious day?”.

Over the past few months Lillas and I had rich and deep conversations about some of the books and podcasts we were appreciating. Kate Bowler’s work was particularly good for our souls, validating and resonant. Kate, diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in her 30’s, is also a Duke professor, self proscribed incurable optimist, bestselling author, podcast host and the ‘offerer’ of beautiful blessings. We engaged with her book Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection over several weeks and re-read many of her blessings. 

Lillas, we have faith your legacy of LOVE will live on.

Amidst this grief, we hold Lillas’s family and loved ones in our hearts and prayers, and in a true Lillas way, expect to experience moments of inspiration.

 A blessing for when the road is long from Kate Bowler

God, I could not have imagined
that this road could be 
so long, so hard, so daunting.

Here I am, worn out—
body and soul.

Blessed are we, the weary
who must set aside
what we are carrying,
and begin to feel
only the weight of our own being.

It is enough for now.

Let our shoulders sink
from around our ears,
our breath grow longer and deeper,
taking a minute to notice
the way our diaphragm
rises and falls
without us telling it to.

Blessed are we who cannot go on…
not like this,
but stand and look and ask:
Is there a better path?

Blessed are we, at the point of utter stillness,
that becomes an empty space for
that voice to echo
and build and resound

until it becomes a place to rest
and receive
and be made whole.

And how blessed are we
who are astonished
to find that God’s strength
begins at the very point
when ours runs out.


You might be interested in these:

Lillas and Andrew’s article Devastatingly Beautiful and Lillas’s related post.

More of Marie’s words.

Check out Kate Bowler.

If grief has a place in your life now, you may find this post helpful. Some thoughts of grief as a companion.