Be Soft

My parents have been dead a long time. Or not so long. It depends on my mood, how long it seems. My mom died in April 2007, my dad in January 1993. I often wonder what advice they would give me now, about being childless, being disabled and in chronic pain and  often frustrated and depressed. Then, by chance, today I came across a quote that spells out what I know in my heart they would both say to me so perfectly, it gave me chills. In fact, I can hear my mom’s voice…

Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.

Kurt Vonnegut

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Before I Knew Her

 

The  summer after my mom died ten year ago, I discovered a cache of letters, poems, and old photos I had never seen before, many of which dated back to her high school and college years. It was disconcerting, to say the least, to discover that my mother–my mother!–had once been as immature and silly as I remember myself being during those years.  Well, almost. There were other surprises awaiting me as well.

I think I was somewhere in my twenties when I realized that my parents had actually been people before I came into their lives. Interesting, intelligent, fun people, growing and experiencing young adulthood just as I was at the time. My head almost exploded at the thought. “Well, of course,” my mom said mildly, barely looking up from her mystery novel when I shared my discovery with her. My dad just looked at me. “When I was your age, I was fighting a war, ” was all he said, while I stood there with my mouth hanging open and my world tilted on its axis a bit more. Ever since, I’ve been hungry to learn more about them, the young woman and man who became my parents.

My mother’s letters and poems have helped me understand how she dealt (actually, she didn’t really deal) with the sudden loss of her father in a farming accident when she was 20. Reading her prose makes me sad that she never followed up on her youthful ambition to be a writer, and makes me more determined than ever to somehow, someway, realize my dream of becoming one, chronic migraines be damned! Looking through her papers I am continually reminded that although I may not be her flesh and blood, I am so much like her I might just as well be…The passionate love poem she wrote to my dad shortly before their wedding, well, I just have to keep putting that one aside because I can’t wrap my mind around that one, nor am I entire certain I want to!

But most astounding and overwhelming letters that I found were the ones I had no inkling existed, the letters she wrote to God when she converted to the Catholic Church in her early twenties. My mom was a real Christian; she lived the Beatitudes and was warm, generous, joyful, and loving, forgiving, nonjudgmental and kindness itself. But these letters reveal a depth of love so overwhelming that it is shocking, in the the same way some of the more mystical writings of the saints are shocking. It’s a good reminder that not all saints are canonized, that even those we love most have hidden depths, and that, indeed, we are all called to holiness.

 

medicine for the soul

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul. (Luther Burbank)

Especially for those of us dealing with chronic illness and pain, and/or mental illness, it is more important than ever that we cherish the little things. For it is the little things that make up a life.

the beautiful people

In our society, when we talk about “the beautiful people” we usually mean the well-off, the best-looking, those genetically and financially blessed people who wear the latest fashions and frequent the most exclusive clubs and the best restaurants, etc. The grown-up version of the high school “in” crowd, basically.

But just how beautiful are they, really? I have a definition I find more accurate; and today, on International Women’s Day, I want to dedicate it to the women in my family, especially my Aunt Jo, my cousin Melinda, and the memories of my mom and grandmothers. Because they are, truly, the most beautiful people I have ever met.

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known struggle, known loss, and have fought their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross)