It is that time of year when we reflect on our lives-what we have to be thankful for, what has occurred over the past year, and what we hope to accomplish in the year to come. As I think of the abundance of moments and events that I have to be grateful for, I also pause as twinges of regret snake their way through my thoughts.
Those momentary whispers that glide through my soul are reserved for friends and family members that are no longer readily available for hugs or an exchange of words due to their having passed on ahead. The hint of tears that brim at the edge of the eyes when opening a box of decorations, seeing an shiny ornament from decades ago that reflects that bond that has been broken, at least in the physical world, by death.
I am grateful for the fact that I have been allowed the luxury of living past the scorching emotions that color our youth, to this middle time where the embers from those passions still glow warmly, but allow for a clarity of understanding beyond the instant passions that can clutter ones thoughts and reactions.
Time has allowed a clarity of perspective and also given me the opportunity to really search out the meanings in words that people have shared with me over the years. With age comes an ease of looking beyond the initial attempts at communications that people offer and the ability to really understand what people mean by awkward words and phrases. We all feel the poetry in our souls, it is just hard for us to express that song to others.
Years ago I used to help out my grandmother quite a bit. One of regular events in our weekly schedule was a trip to the local hair dresser for a standing appointment for a curl and set, and also a permanent every so few months. It was a warm, friendly place. Grandma loved going there because the ladies were so nice and because then she felt beautiful and ready to go to church on Sunday when her weekly visit was done. One of the hair dressers offered me a compliment at one of our visits, that it was so nice how I faithfully brought my "mother" in for her appointments, that she never missed a week.
I am thankful that I kept my immediate reaction locked tightly away in the dark recesses of my mind. I was alarmed. Why did she think this dear, sweet woman was my mother? Did I look that haggard and old? Had I best highlight and color those sneaky gray hairs that were now accenting my face?
It took me a long while and much pondering to realize that what the woman was commenting on was not my physical condition, but the condition of my heart and my relationship with my grandma. She noted that my caring of my grandma was as a daughter caring for her mother, that there was not that barrier of a whole other generation between us.
I now treasure these words and keep them tucked safely away in my heart. These words are a witness to how much I loved my grandma. And the fact that the dear hair dresser expressed this to me, means that I lived those feelings well enough that others knew their reality and I can carry the hope that this was evident to my grandma as well.
This reminds me of another incident with my much younger sister. She is 11 and a half years younger then me. She was long awaited by me. I had wanted a sister from the time I was about 5 or 6 and could see the advantages to having a best friend that lived right at home with you. It never occurred to me that one might not always feel that way about a dear, younger sibling.
I was lucky that we were always close. It started with me tirelessly reading books to her. I had the "Grinch" memorized for a time. It continued as she grew older and we became camping partners and travel buddies. We shared so many moments of our lives. And it culminated in an event where we were helping to put on a party. And someone asked my sister to go get her mother from in the other room to help with the food. Well, her mother wasn't there. It was me, her older sister, but not that old of a sister!
My own insecurities caused the same panic as from years before. Good heavens, I need to take better care of myself. More sunscreen, more lotion, and I better get serious about meditation.
Again, as time passed, I was able to ponder what was really meant by those words. It was another witness to the fact that we were that close, me and my sister, as if we were parent and child. There was no rivalry between us, only love and appreciation. This was the reality that was being conveyed by the other person's choice of words when she called me my sister's mother-it was a witness to the closeness of our relationship.
Since it is that time of year, when we often are put into situations that can be stressful with hordes of people we don't see except at holiday events, my best advice to myself and others is to take the time to listen and reflect on the words that people share with you before you react to what they say. Really search out the meaning they are trying to convey. There might be a secret blessing hidden behind or within the words they choose to use.
You never know where the words will come from that will become your talisman, your witness, your gift that you will hold dear and treasure for a lifetime.