I’ve gotten a few 911 calls this morning from people in crisis or pain. This is such a deep time for people, it seems like everyone I know and most of my clients are in some kind of relationship shift, some kind of transition or deep grief. Lots of people are sick, lots of things are in a big transition. I am acutely aware of the pains and joys of the people in my inner circle and beyond…aware that like the breath rising and falling, life ebbs and flows, ever moving into something new and different. But the memories linger, the hopes and dreams and hurts and forgiveness become part of the fabric that is the weave of our lives, and I am always amazed by the way the taste of those things remain, lightly sweet yet heavy on the tongue.
As I am witness to the journey of others today, I am also thinking a lot about my grandmother. She’s been gone 9 years, the anniversary of her death is this week. I have never known a woman with more ancient wisdom about people, lumber, the growing of crops, of plants and what to do with them. She was a sharecropper and a child in the Depression, and could make anything out of nothing. She chopped cotton for years, worked in a saw mill for much of her life and somehow raised 9 kids on, as the expression goes down South, “spit and baling wire.” Everything she cooked seemed to have gravy on it, everything just tasted better at her house. She could take a cut rose (usually from a funeral arrangement, no less) and 1/2 a potato and — I’m not making this up– dig a hole and put them in the earth together and end up with a rose bush. I have tried this at least a dozen times and end up with a dead rose and a stinky potato. I’ve asked other family members about this–they all remember that she could do it, but no one knows how she did it.
I think wisdom is like that…not just knowledge, although that’s part of it. But a true wisdom of the ages, an understanding of how to do things that is simply long gone. Yet just because something is ancient, it doesn’t mean it’s obsolete. I watch myself and many others of my generation relearn things about gardening and sustainability that she just lived because it was what they did then. She was from a time that has entered the larger flow of history and is a distant memory for those left from her generation. She lived through an abusive husband, through wars and the development of antibiotics, through the advent of television and ballpoint pens, through computers and space travel and life and death and things that would destroy most people.
So this morning, I’m thinking of her and all those who knew and loved her, and all of us who love and have lost someone we love. Certain people leave a lingering taste on the lives of others, a smell and a sound that is always present, ripples in the waters of our souls that just keep echoing out into all we become. If I believed in Heaven, I would believe it smelled like her house and tasted like her cooking. It would smell like beans and cornbread, biscuits and bacon, fresh air and cookies, it would smell like wood stoves and sweet tea and a scent that was hers alone. It would have that same quality of light, that ringing laughter that made anyone with her laugh even more, a full-on delightful laughter that made babies grin and giggle. Even at the end when she was in hospice, she had the same quality of light…that mystical quality twilight has about this time in the summer when the fireflies are dancing in the fields, bestowing upon us a shower of grace and wonder as time rolls by; the quality Light has as a life becomes a memory but the love remains, ever-present, ever accessible, ever with us.
As is the nature of my stream of consciousness, this led me to thinking about other things, which led me to thinking about George Washington Carver (I realize this is quite a leap, but just try to follow the bouncing ball). Someone once asked him how he figured out so many things about peanuts and what to do with them. His response, “Anything will share its secrets with you if you love it enough,” is so beautiful, so instructive. I think this is why my grandmother ended up with rose bushes and I ended up with a pile of compost. She lived with and in her life, not at it. She went through a lot in her life, saw a lot, learned a lot, finished her GED when one of her daughters graduated from high school, made do and thrived on it. She is remembered fondly by all, and we still laugh about her laugh and how much we miss it. Stories about people don’t get a great deal better than that.
So that led me to thinking about a quote by Rabindranath Tagore, “If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.” She saw the sun and stars in everything and I just love that about her.
So today, when so many are having such a hard time, and I remember one of the beloved people in my life with sweet sadness but a big smile, I think of another Tagore poem, a beautiful prayer…
“My God, when the heart is hard and parched up, come upon me with a shower of mercy. When grace is lost from life, come with a burst of song.
When tumultuous work raises its din on all sides shutting me out from beyond, come to me, sweet God of silence, with your peace and rest.
When my beggarly heart sits crouched, shut up in a corner, break open the door, my king, and come with the ceremony of a king.
When desire blinds the mind with delusion and dust, O holy one, ever wakeful, come with your light and your thunder…”
To those experiencing grief today, we hold you in the tenderness of hope and joy, of compassion and sweet silence, of peace and rest. May you experience ever present showers of mercy and find the comfort of the ages in it. Above all, may you love something enough for it to tell you all its secrets, and bloom in that love. Years from now, may you remember those you loved, and they remember you, and may enduring loving relationships brighten your life. Showers of Mercy, indeed. Stories just don’t get a great deal better than that.
Peace and blessings,