Favourite Quotes: “On loan to each other” – an Aztec prayer

Each morning since a week last Tuesday I have stepped out of our third floor flat onto a very silent landing. No kids’ clutter outside the door opposite. Double doors firmly shut. Our next door neighbours and friends are in Australia for a month. I miss them. Second floor next. More closed doors. Since a week last Wednesday another family of neighbours and friends has been gone, en route to California for six months. Wee Lauchie has just started to walk. I miss them too.

It is a blessing to have neighbours who are friends, to have neighbours with lively twins who aged 10 make you cakes and yorkshire puddings. These things are precious and we should not take them for granted.

Another of my communities is in shock. One of our members, only 51, died suddenly last Saturday. We all grieve for his wife, family and friends. We are brutally reminded of how fleeting life is – a fact we do not care to face in western society which likes to insulate itself from life’s rough edges, from risk, from death, from transience.

But today there was an uplifting email from a young friend, a former student of mine, whom I have not seen for a long time. After many difficulties, she has just been allocated a flat she can afford, in a part of London she loves, within a supportive community. Better still, her art work is coming together in a wonderful way. She sounds joyful; at last her direction is opening out.

Many years ago I read her horoscope, telling her she needed to paint her life on a big canvas – that symbolic art, perhaps astrological art, could be her forte. She got in touch to tell me that her work is now taking off in just that direction.  She also said kind things about my first book, which she has just read. Her email made my day.

As I walked to my office, a passage about the richness and transience of life, and our connectedness with one another, floated into my mind and lodged there. It expresses beautifully and poignantly how I feel today. Aware of the rich weave of dark and light which is our life: very, very aware of the importance and also the underlying frailty of all our relationships. Truly, we are but on loan to one another, should cherish one another….

Beautiful Rainbow Obsidian


“ There is an ancient Aztec Indian prayer that reflects on the preciousness of life and the fleetingness of it. As the Aztecs thank the Creator for their life and breath, they acknowledge that they are only on loan to each other for a short while, and just like the drawings that they have made in crystalline obsidian fade, so, too, will their life quickly be gone.

‘Oh, only for so short a while you have loaned us
to each other,
because we take form in your act
of drawing us.
And we take life in your painting us,
And we breathe in your singing us.
But only for so short a while have you loaned us
to each other.’ ”


Grateful thanks to my friend C.M. for reading me this passage recently, thereby inspiring me to use it too!

(from p55, PRAYING OUR GOODBYES The Spirituality of Change by Joyce Rupp 1988)


550 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2010

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

8 thoughts on “Favourite Quotes: “On loan to each other” – an Aztec prayer

  1. Our life is shorter than flowers./Then shall we mourn?/ No, we shall dance/ and make gardens/ of many colors/ and teach our children/ to make the world more beautiful/, because our life is shorter than flowers. – Toltec fragment

    This was given to me 20 years ago, written in calligraphy on hand made paper, by a client who became a good friend. She is coming to visit on Monday after our not seeing each other for quite a few years. The handmade paper is a bit worse for wear but still legible and the dried flowers are still embedded.

  2. This is a beautiful post. I believe we are all connected to one another, it is just that sometimes we can’t see it. Thank you for sharing such profound observations.

  3. 20.7.10:from Al, by email, from Oz:

    I thought your piece was beautifully heartfelt and the sentiments shared here – I can assure you that the noise/cake vacuum will be filled in a week when we return with tales of high adventure.

  4. Thankyou for sharing this,dear Annie.We are “on loan” to each other yes and also every kindness given to us and reflected on to others creates a tangibly loving web bonding each to other across many divides.

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