The celebration of our sixth anniversary is muted. The death of Peg Staley, who tried for more than a year to heal herself of cancer, reminds us — as Chief Dan George in the film “Little Big Man” put it — that sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t.

I was rooting for Peg. I know we all go that way, and I usually don’t worry: life doesn’t begin and end in this sack of skin. Bodies die, not consciousness. But bodies are precious, too. And I wanted Peg’s to endure — not just for herself and her friends and family, but so she could carry on the dialogue she’d begun.

She was learning, and so were we. Disdaining drugs, when you have a cold, is one thing; going against your doctors, when you have cancer, is something else. She took wholistic health from the parlor to the boiler room. Bent over her shovel, she contemplated the glowing coals — no unquestioned faith in doctors to cool her, but faith in her own ability to distinguish ideas that sounded good from ideas that worked. She put her faith, finally, in God, her “mantra”: Thy will be done.

Basking in the glow of our own cherished notions about health, tested and yet to be tested, let’s meditate on her dying smile, enigmatic as cancer itself.

— Sy