Random thoughts about Grandparents and this life and its endings:
My Johnny K's cousins talk so often and so highly of their Italian grandmother that I have a living breathing sense of her in my head. Pretty amazing for she has been gone a long time. I have been thinking about my grandmothers and how I have sparkles of both of them within me. As I write this I picture them hovering, and nudging each other happily in a way they never would have actually done here on earth.
I read somewhere that the reason we grieve when people die is because they exist still in a place we cannot reach. That if we were not grieving so, we would be able to reach it better. That if they were truly "gone" we would not feel the grief so. This comforted me.
I do not think we lose people and I do not think they "rest in peace." I think they exit this movie theater and find themselves "home" and exclaim "Wow...That was something else!" Hopefully they appreciate what went on when they were here no matter what happened or how it ended. They have a chance to soak in what they gained from the experience. I believe they can still see us. When my Little Gran died I dreamt that my mother and I were standing face to face talking, and my Little Gran was right there listening. Gran was in a "Glinda the good witch travel bubble" just to my right, but if we turned to "see" her she was just out of our earthly sight. This comforted me.
My grandparents greeted you first today, in the above photo. This was before my mother was born and decades before I came along and then more decades before my Little Gran died and appeared in my dream. We had decades of time to play with her.
"It is into us that the lives of grandparents have gone." ~Charles and Ann Morse
Isn't that lovely.
Meanwhile, we are here. And sometimes we claim that it is good. Sometimes we claim that things are sad and bad and we are mad. We are all over the place with what we claim about it. However if we thought it was going to end next week for us, what would we claim? We would love it! We would eat and dance and drink it all in and be on the phone making spontaneous plans and get out to the mountains and the ocean and the woods and surround ourselves with connecting with friends and family we love most. We would talk to strangers and knock on our neighbors door to say how much we appreciated them. We would feel the rain and the heat and the snow and admire the birds and the flowers and have so much admiration for children and how wisely they embrace play. We would LIVE BIG for the week. When really, every day we can LIVE BIG. Do you need a death sentence to do it?
So come dance with me and listen to music and hug way more people and have that dessert and make the very best of it. Reach. Stretch. Appreciate. Love. Permission to choose a new path if the one you are on is not doing it for you. Live as if you would be gone next week.
They say everything at the root is love or fear based. What is at the root of you?
My grandmother, Elizabeth Stewart Gilchrist and her brother Arthur Bruce, approx 1910
Years ago, two sisters had written in to "Dear Abby", asking for advice about something that was destroying their close relationship. The mother of these sisters had died suddenly and she had left a lifetime collection of valuable jewelry. The daughters were trying to decide which of them got what, and they were finding it impossible to divide these emotional and valuable items fairly. Their emotions were raw to start with, and trying to decide who got each lovely thing, one piece at a time, was just too difficult. Their crying was spiraling down into anger and harsh words. Their mother would not have wanted them to act or feel this way about her jewelry and each other. What to do?
I do not have a sister and my mother does not have a vast jewelry collection. This exact question did not apply to me. But wisdom knocks at our door in all ways and that day my door was open. "Dear Abby" had a wise answer, and I added the essence of this answer to who I am as I live my life. To me, this answer was a diamond.
-Take the entire collection and give it to one sister. Have this first sister divide all the jewelry up into two piles.
-The second sister gets first choice of piles.
D-A-2-P-R. The "Dear Abby 2 Pile Rule". DA2PR made me a better parent, spouse, and friend. DA2PR was my ticket to the fair ground, but not the kind with ferris wheels and games of chance. This is a much more important kind of fair ground. A happier life is one grounded in fairness.
Think about that a minute. Imagine the care the first sister would take, knowing she would want to be happy with the pile she was left with. And for her to be happy, her sister had to be happy. She would be weighing all the different ways we value things, wanting it to be fair to both of them. She would be weighing both tangible financial value and intangible sentimental meaning.
I used this with my boys when they were little, taught them this was the way to divide things, when choosing toys "one by one" was not working. It always added some fairness to conflict.
DA2PR is a great way to split that last slice of pie. The one that divides it will be so careful to make the portions even, as the last bite left is the one they get. There is pressure on the slicer to get it just right. There would be three heads bent over that pie plate or that last ice cream sandwich, watching the chosen slicer do this delicate work. No one rushed the slicer! Accuracy and integrity cannot be rushed!
It also taught them that sometimes, picking "one by one" was what they wanted. I want THIS pirate and you choose that pirate, I want this hat for my pirate and you choose THAT sword for yours... step by step to a fair afternoon of play. They did not fight about it because they did not want to choose a ready made pile. At times they wanted more control over small things. Their favorite action figure might be in one pile and their favorite sword in another, and that would be no fun at all. So instead, step by step they would find a balance.
This is how I taught "the art of the deal" at home. This is how I taught partnership and companionship and relationship and stewardship. All these life values began at pirate ship. This is how we create a generation of honest business owners and politicians and leaders and workers. One tiny child at a time at home, learning how to get along as well as possible with whoever is in the house. Life in the world is just more of THAT.
One of my sons was in a city with a few friends a few years ago. They were out socializing and trying new places and it was late and they walked into a bar that was not familiar in a part of the city they were not usually in.
They entered innocently, probably laughing, probably not paying clear attention, went to the bar to order, in their own world. And then. Suddenly he noticed something was off. They were being watched by a few big, scary looking guys.
They were clean cut college boys. The only ones of that type in this bar. And as he turned around, only a few feet away now, there was a group right there. Maybe not wanting their space invaded. Maybe not wanting their "kind" in there. Maybe wanting them to leave.
The biggest guy had many spiked piercings in his face. My son was 6 feet tall and this man was inches taller. His shoulders were almost twice as wide. The tall, pierced man had a leather jacket that was covered with metal studs. He was like a modern day knight, ready for battle, silver glinting from his face and his upper body. I mean, nails and needles and studs all over. Intimidating. Can you see him?
I am not done. He had done something with his eyes. They were coated or covered or tattooed ... I have no idea but they were all white or gray. I cannot remember now, but they were scary and different and monster like. You could not "see" this man.
Now my boy is good with people. And open to difference. But he was nervous. He knew the group right there was not going anywhere. They had positioned themselves to interact.
My son noticed this. He noticed a few things. My son spoke first.
"Hey, man. I love your jacket. Where did you ever get a jacket like that?"
The bar was quiet. Everyone waited. And then.... it had to happen.....bam!
The big, scary, studded guy told him all about his jacket. He had made it himself. He took great pride in it.
My son listened to the history of the jacket's making, for he was interested, he had noticed the patterns in the studding, the artistry, no detail left undone. His comment had been genuine admiration. He was not surprised when he heard of the hours of time that had gone in to getting the jacket "just right."
The studded guy took his jacket off. He never let anyone touch it, he said; and his friends laughed and agreed. But he offered to let my son try it on. And so my son did. He put the scary eyed man's studded, still warm, and maybe even sweaty, jacket ON.... It weighed a ton, he said. It weighed a ton. They took a side-by-side, smiling selfie. He took the jacket back off and gave it back. They all had a beer together. They shook hands goodbye.
I loved this story and I love my son and I learned so much from him when I heard it.
We had our first cup of coffee.
I was thinking I could wish for spring weather but today I choose to love the cold while it is here. This morning I decided to suddenly trim some ivy in the backyard- so I got the kitchen scissors and clipped through it. I was in my bathrobe and had my little old dog with me on his long leash.
Today though, why brace against the cold when we can let it be and feel alive in it? When do we reach for new places and when do we stay put? What gives us clarity and what distracts?
Meanwhile, the little dog grappled with his own worldly perspectives. He sniffed the ground despite his intermittent heart cough. He kept me company. When he had enough he walked as far as he could into the garage and gave his "I have had enough" bark, that remains strong despite his age.
Winter. A season of clarity and quiet to consider clipping away what might entangle us, what we have had enough of. May we consider wisely when we need to change and when spring comes have the energy to reach and grow.
We went in for our second cup of coffee.
The other day I experienced such a spring treat. A young boy in our neighborhood went past the house on roller blades. In his hand he had a yoyo, and he was not just holding it while he skated, he was making it go up and down. Yoyo-ing on rollerblades! What a great celebration of spring.
Today I picked out some chocolate things at Wegman's. The girl who rang my things up looked at each one and announced out loud what it was. "This is a rooster. This is a bunny. This is a different kind of bunny. This is a hen." She did it for all 7 chocolate things, and I appreciated her little girl enthusiasm for the Easter items.
The other day I waited for Johnny K to drive home from work. We sat on the front porch and each had a Fat Tire. Neighbors walked by. The air was almost warm, the sun was out, and we were feeling like we made it through another winter.
The other day my friend Sandy did me a huge favor AND brought me one of her home made peanut butter eggs. I am still reliving how perfect it was to eat. She gave it to me at 9 in the morning and I started eating it at 9 in the morning. Sometimes you just gotta.
Reese's has a new kind of peanut butter egg... Little hard shelled ones. I never had them before. If you loved peanut butter and Fluff as a kid you should get some. OR if you loved peanut butter and Fluff as a kid you better not get any of these. Your pick.
When I was a little girl in Massachusetts Easter would come and sometimes you would have a patch of grass peaking through mostly snow. It would still be winter. And I would make my way with my patent leather shoes somehow to the grass spot, to stand on it and just smell the dirt grass smell.
I loved wearing a straw Easter hat with ribbons that trailed down, a little elastic band under my chin to hold it on.
Today my friends son was in a video reciting Bible Verses on Facebook. He is getting so big and is such a sweet boy. Meanwhile my niece is pregnant with her second baby and we will find out Easter Sunday if it is a boy or girl.
All this is just tiny little moments of life. You have to pay attention to these tiny moments though. I like to count them up, and realize them as they happen, make sure I do not miss them.
As Mandy Hale said,
"Dance. Smile. Giggle. Marvel. TRUST. HOPE. LOVE. WISH. BELIEVE. Most of all, enjoy every moment of the journey, and appreciate where you are at this moment instead of always focusing on how far you have to go."
Lives should not be taken by sudden bullets to the head. And yet they are. I have such love for the mothers left to pick up the pieces.
I sat on the floor of my kitchen yesterday with my little dog. I fed him a clementine. For years he has known when a clementine was being peeled. He would promptly find me and sit reverently at my feet, waiting quietly as I bit the last few sections in half. I would hold out his side of the piece. He would swallow it and then be an alert little sentinel, patiently waiting for the next slice.
He is a smooth black and tan miniature dachshund, who was born in rural Pennsylvania on May 14, 2001. Now he is gray and white and black and tan. You can picture him as an elderly gentleman, winding down from life. If "a dog year equals seven people years" rings true, this May he will be 105.
A few days ago he lost his footing and fell down the stairs, and though he is okay, he has been quiet for the several days since.
One busy morning a few weeks ago I took him out to start his morning, and I was already an hour into mine, important thoughts whirling in my head. He walks slowly with a swaying lilt. I was urging him to be faster about his to do list. I told him I had so many things on mine. I was wanting the walk to be over so I could get on to my next thing.
I remembered why I wanted a dog, why I pushed for a dog, why I looked for a dog, why I found a dog, why I reserved a dog, why I drove hours to Hillside Kennels in rural Pennsylvania to pick up our new dog.
I wanted to have someone who would make me get outside to play. I wanted someone who would take walks with me, and never say no. I wanted someone to listen to me talk about adult things when I was lonely. I wanted someone to be a loyal friend to my boys. I wanted someone to snuggle with.
Oh my little friend, I think. Oh my little friend. You have gifted me with everything I ever asked you for.
So, yesterday I sat and fed him a clementine. Or I should be more clear. Yesterday he was propped in his own bed. I sat reverently at his feet. Waiting quietly, an alert sentinel, I hand fed my honorable little friend his very own clementine, slice by slice.
"Now, before we get too excited, I want to pause for a moment and ask you to consider all the negative conclusions that I could have drawn about this incident, had I been in the mood to ruin my life."
We all might want to read that again. That wonderful sentence is from Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic." It made me instantly want to write to you, and myself. It made me want to explore this further. What is this thing we do to ourselves all too frequently?
What story have you told yourself in your head lately about events that have happened to you? How quickly do you think the worst and make yourself miserable? How fast do you project a poor outcome into the future? How much does your own negativity and the stories you tell yourself in your head spoil the good things you have going on?
At first look, it is not our fault. We are hard wired in our actual brains to be very aware of the bad things that might happen or could happen or possibly will happen. We look for the most negative. We look to see the disaster before it comes, and we prepare ourselves for the worst possible outcome. It is as if thinking the worst ahead of time- keeping our guard up and our fists clenched- will keep us safe. We are wired that way because in more primitive times we needed to be on alert to survive. We needed to constantly be on our guard so that we would not get jumped on from behind by an animal with huge claws. We needed to mistrust other tribes, anyone different from us. We needed to sleep lightly and close to the campfire and wake up on high alert at the smallest sound, hearts pounding, ready to fight or run.
None of us live that dangerously now.
And yet the caution persists. We are often so frazzled we do not take the time to think about it. We have not been taught to question it. We are so busy doing it about tiny little things and also the big giant huge scary things that we do not have the time to even start the wondering about it.
There are many lovely reasons to take the time to start the wondering.
I am asking you to question how you think.
I am asking you to wonder what questioning your thoughts might look like.
Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, was waiting in a long line at the Post Office. Stamps had changed and so everyone needed penny stamps for accurate postage. I can imagine the dialogue each mind was having, they did not have time for this, why do stamp rates go up, why is the Post Office so.... you get it.
When it was Seligman's turn, he bought dollars worth of stamps. Then he stood in the post office and called out, "Who needs penny stamps?" Within a few minutes a grumpy line became a festive circle of happy people being gifted the stamps they needed.
So simple, but so magic.
Can you shift your thoughts about something today?
Take a day to be thoughtful. The rest of your life is here.
I have been curious about making America great again, as in the political slogan “Make America great again!” Who doesn’t want America to be great… again? I am not sure I get what it means.
I looked the words and the punctuation up.
Ok. So we want to cause America to be or become above normal or above average, i.e. prominent, eminent, important, distinguished, illustrious, and celebrated; as America was at sometime previously; and we say this with “strong feelings or high volume (shouting)” which is what the exclamation point adds.
We are those things, now. And we could be better. But does our better come from fear, walls, limiting our tolerance, and buying more killing equipment? Who are we, here?
I found some old greatness in America that inspired me.
Who doesn’t love the forefathers? All of us, right? We argue about so much and at the same time we all claim the forefathers. The forefathers gave us The Constitution; but they also gave us a gift we see so often we have ceased to see it. Gather your children around. Get ready to talk about this over dinner or at the water cooler. Pull your wallet out. I bet you a dollar you will feel even better about those men when you remember this.
We have a symbol of America’s greatness right at hand maybe every day of the year. It grounds us to who we might be as citizens and reminds us of what our country’s visionaries wanted us to be. We hand it over in exchange for a Starbucks coffee and a Dunkin Donut… you know, American things.
Our One Dollar Bill features the front and back of the Great Seal of the United States. Patriots we still honor today, including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, were in on designing and approving of this seal, along with other brilliant talents of the time. Congress adopted it in 1782, six years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Their design embodies guiding principles that were chosen to represent the people of the United States of America. This was a living, breathing, newborn America choosing symbols to guide the new country in to the future.
According to Joseph Campbell in “The Power of Myth," an interview with Bill Moyers, the United States was a model for how the whole world could be.
"Here we had 13 different little colony nations that decided to act in a way that mutually benefitted the interests of all, without disregarding the individual interests of any one of them," Campbell said. Hopefully you have rushed to pull a dollar bill out of your piggy bank. On the back are both sides of the Great Seal. Start to notice everything that is here. Look at the left, the pyramid. How many layers do you see in the pyramid? Thirteen layers, representing the thirteen colonies, which together make up one pyramid for one nation.
Think about this pyramid as a symbol for our birth, labeled with 1776 on the bottom. A pyramid has four sides. I love how Campbell explores the idea of this pyramid; the four sides are the four directions; North, South, East, and West. These are the four points of the compass. There is someone at each point. “When you are down on the lower levels of this pyramid, you will be either on one side or the other. But when you get up to the top, the points all come together, and there the eye of God opens.” Look at that amazing eye at the top, representing reason. The forefathers were not talking of a particular God, but rather a God of Reason, accessible to all. They believed that all men were competent to know the mind of God; that there was no revelation specific to any people.
(If you are not a God believer, do not feel you are lost to the magic of the seal. Maybe see if you can find your own magic, for Campbell claims that in the basic theme of all mythology throughout the history of man “there is an invisible plane supporting the visible one.” Be open to finding your invisible plane.)
At the top of the pyramid there are no sides, there is the eye, the vision, the ability to see in all directions at once. The eye is surrounded by what they called in art, “glory,” which were beams of light radiating in all directions, also known as “divine lustre.” Glory itself is a beautiful word, defined as resplendent beauty or magnificence; a state of absolute happiness, gratification or contentment; or very great praise, honor or distinction bestowed by common consent. The beams of glory are on our seal.
The words Annuit Coeptis can be translated as “favor our undertakings” or “(he) smiles upon our endeavors” and in truth George Washington himself spoke about the many times he felt that providence had intervened to help them achieve independence from Britain.
On the other side of The Great Seal of the United States: an Eagle. The bald eagle, wings out, known for its six to seven foot wingspan; bald coming from the old English word “balde” meaning white headed. This magnificent bird who can see another eagle in flight 50 miles away, the bird who is estimated to dive at 75 mph, the bird that can literally swim with its wings, the bird that mates for life and raises its young in a huge sturdy nest it repairs each year, raises them to be independent and fly away when self sufficient, the bird who can soar effortlessly at 100,000 feet. We are given the gift of this bird on our seal. In one talon it carries arrows. In the other talon is an olive branch representing peaceful conversation. How many arrows are there? How many olive leaves are on the branch? In heraldry, or the making of coats of arms, the most important idea was placed on the right side as you hold your shield; your own right side. Look at the eagles right side, what is in the talon on its right? Which “side” is the eagle looking toward? The choice of item to put on the right, and the eagle looking toward that side is meant to be intentionally directive.
Around its neck is the banner, E PLURIBUS UNUM; out of many, one.
Out of many, one. A model for today.
This seal represents us even now. The “Eagle” side is used to ratify peace, cooperation and trade agreements we make with other nations.
There are many more details that I will leave you to discover on your own. Me? I am going to go wave a flag and sing a few verses of "My Country Tis of Thee" and contemplate how I can be the best I can be in this great land of ours.
It represents us all, this Great Seal of the United States. Let us stand tall.
Yesterday I was in line at the grocery store and I could not help but eye the order of the man behind me. I could see what he had planned for Christmas dinner. It was loaded with delicious potential. Our own order, cockles and mussels and salmon and fresh parsley and basil plants and can after can of San Marzano tomato's... showed that we had lots of entertaining ahead.
"Everyone's choices are so much more interesting this time of year," I said to him as I nodded toward his order.
"I know! I have never bought a pomegranate!" he shared happily.
Even the talking in line is different.
I am thankful for the change in music on the radio and the lights in the windows and the smell of pine and the use of candles and the chance to cook and be cooked for. I am thankful for the Christmas decorations I have now had for years; especially the beautiful wise men and manger that were my Grandmothers. I am thankful for stockings hanging and the anticipation of filling them. I am thankful for the plastic placemats I found that smell the same as every doll I ever got from Santa Claus. For at least a few days out of the package I would smell that smell as I kissed my doll's face.
I am thankful for the memories I have of my older brother waking me up in the dark, and telling me that Santa had come, and then telling me what was in my pile because I was too sleepy to get up yet. Too sleepy because it felt like I lay in bed wide awake for hours trembling with excitement that Santa was coming. I am thankful for my parents who made those Christmas mornings so delightful. I am thankful for the overwhelmingly busy times making Christmas for my own children; even for the wrapping until 3 AM Christmas morning; what a treat it was to deliver the same kind of excitement I had enjoyed as a child. So much work but so much fun!
I am thankful for the memories of my grandparents at their houses, special things they cooked and certain dishes they used, that I now try to use the same way. I remember a pair of little red boots my Grandfather chose for me when I was eight, and then he died suddenly just after Christmas. Within two weeks his mother, my Nana, died of a broken heart. So there are those memories, too.
Yup peeps, my eyes and heart well up with love for family and traditions. We have special friends come for Christmas Eve... A special "Christmas Eve" family that I have celebrated with since I met Johnny K. Things are always changing. We would not appreciate the happy if we did not also experience the sad. Life is rich with feelings, always.
If things are good, this too shall pass. If things are bad, this too shall pass. So just enjoy. Enjoy this minute and what you have right now.
It seems like all religions have a celebration of some sort this time of year.. So whatever yours is, I wish you love and frivolity and depth of feeling and surprise...
I wish you the best of this life.
Melissa Regan has approached grieving families about Organ Donation for over 12 years. She is a wife, mother, lifelong learner, and lover of the wonder you can find in a single moment. Recently she changed her life by studying Positive Psychology and Let Your Yoga Dance®. Join her in taking a day to be thoughtful... the rest of your life is here.