A strange thing happened to me this past week. A package arrived at my house which contained a very small but very heavy little box. The mailman had brought it late in the afternoon, so I found myself tugging at the vast amounts of tape impatiently while most of my attention was actually on my two boys who were shouting and running around the house hitting each other with paper ‘lightsavers’ (this is called ‘play’ apparently).
Then suddenly out of the box tumbled this crystal.
There was no note to say who this present was from, but my first thought was of my grandmother who had these same crystals hanging all over her house because she loved to throw rainbows on the walls. My best friend does the same with her two boys who chase the illusive rainbows across the floor trying to capture them in their tiny hands.
My grandmother is one of the biggest inspirations of my life. If there is anyone I know who has become immensely wise and kind and deeply compassionate through Life, it is her. And for that brief moment, it felt like I held a piece of her in my hand, in that beautiful, clear cut crystal. And I really felt how much I missed her…in a deep hidden place in my heart.
So I held that crystal in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon, my boys hurling like the winds of a hurricane around me, and stood still like the eye of that storm. And I felt so many things, all at once, that tears sprang to my eyes.
My grandma is now 88 years old, and until a year ago was still doing her own gardening in south Florida and volunteering several times a week at the local hospice charity shop. Last year she had a fall and broke her hip, and between that and just the inevitabilities of life, she has become quieter. She is moving into the end of her life.
We are so separated from the realities of life. Of death. Of aging. We surround ourselves with people our own age, and rarely find ourselves in multi-generational groups, perhaps apart from a rare family gathering. This would not have been our experience even a hundred years ago, I think.
We would have understood the deep pain and joy of birth, the long complex road of grief and the many shades of love.
We would have been familiar with what Time and Age does the the body…what our own future journey might look like if we are fortunate enough to grow old.
These are the deep things.
They are deeply human things. And they connect us to all people, in all times and places and circumstances.
I live far away now, across an ocean from my grandmother and the rest of my family. But I think another bit of wisdom my grandmother has taught me, is how little this matters when there is deep love and unconditional acceptance.
I have grown up in a close family – my mother’s sisters have been like second mothers to me, many of my cousins like brothers and sisters – with all the joy and drama and enduring love and getting into each other’s business that comes with that. But there is something different about the way I feel close to my grandmother. It is quiet. And it is deep. It is not caught up in the details of what I am doing each week, or what she’s doing, or what we think about this or that. It just IS. I feel a deep trust from her that is stronger even than the trust and faith I have in myself. She is like a rock in her love. Like a mountain. Unshakeable.
She taught me what it means to ‘love like Christ’ – to refrain from judgement and each day try to accept people as they are.
She taught me that I have the power to determine my own happiness. “Attitude, attitude, attitude, Sarah,” should would always tell me with her soft, West Virginian southern-ness. “Choices, choices, choice…”
The funny thing was, I found out a few days later that the crystal in the little box was actually from my best friend. And that also made me so happy, because these little rainbows are something I also share with her and her children. And so I have something now that will always remind me of two women in my life who have shared their magic and their life wisdom.