Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Bittersweet Poetry of Time

We have so much to learn from our elders, if we can just get past our egos (our fears of our own futures) and do nothing other than be present with them.

I visited some friends at a local nursing home recently. The wife is in the nursing facility, and the husband visits her every day at 4 pm, to have afternoon tea. They were proud to show me their newest tea passion - a black spice tea that was very good indeed! (They'd discovered "large leaf" tea sachets.) They keep a hot pot in the room to boil the water for tea. They enjoy a cookie with tea and talk about the day's visitors and events. It's a sweet, sweet, sweet story.

As I was preparing to leave, they asked if they could recite a few poems for me. I was honored to listen. This one captured my heart. Let me set the scene...they looked at each other, eyes misty, a loving energy surrounding them, and recited:

The soul's dark cottage, batter'd and decay'd,
Lets in new light through chinks that Time has made.
Stronger by weakness, wiser [we] become
As [we] draw near to the eternal home.

On the Diving Poems (1686), Edmund Waller (1605 - 1687)

To learn more about ourselves and how we relate to our elders, I recommend the book Another Country by one of my favorite authors, Mary Pipher. (She wrote Reviving Ophelia.)

I prepare to visit my grandparents this weekend, both in the nursing home. They are blessed to have lots of family nearby, and regular visitors. They share a room. There's a funny irony in their circumstances. My grandfather's body is in pretty good shape, but he'd rather sleep than do anything. My grandmother gets frustrated by what my grandfather could - but doesn't do. Her body has worn out...yet she'd love to be in my grandfather's position to go DO something. They suffer, and yet they laugh and tell jokes and enjoy a piece of chocolate.

While I visit my grandparents, I plan to share that Waller poem with them. I know that, as is natural and whole and holy, their bodies will soon let go completely. I also know that love never dies. My memories of them will remain, and I will carry their love in my heart.

I celebrate my 36th birthday this weekend; my grandfather celebrates his 91st. Happy Birthday, Grandpa!


Marilyn Miller said...

Beautifully said! I hadn't thought about the reason some young adults don't want to spend time with the elderly, but you are right they don't want to see the future.
Have a wonderful visit with your grandparents. And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
March birthdays are the best.

Linda J. said...

Lovely post! Happy birthday!

Anonymous said...

Happy, Happy Birthday Steph! Beautiful post, beautiful poem. It's going right into my quotations journal.

By the way, Edmund Waller wrote a poem about tea in honor of Catherine of Braganza. I cannot recall the title at the moment, but Google probably can! Hugs!

Steph said...

Thank you all for the birthday wishes! It looks like my trip is being postponed. The flu and general crud has struck my mom and niece, but I'll be looking forward to visiting soon!

Denise - Here's the poem. THANK YOU! I've read it, but didn't make the Waller connection. That's cool!

On Tea

Venus her myrtle, Phoebus has her bays;
Tea both excels, which she vouchsafes to praise.
The best of Queens, and best of herbs, we owe
To that bold nation, which the way did show
To the fair region where the sun doth rise,
Whose rich productions we so justly prize.
The Muse's friend, tea does our fancy aid,
Repress those vapors which the head invade,
And keep the palace of the soul serene,
Fit on her birthday to salute the Queen.

parTea lady said...

Thank you for the very poignant way you have expressed your thoughts and for the Waller poem. Have a great birthday celebration!

artandtea said...

Thanks for sharing such a poignant post, Steph. I found the Waller poem especially moving. I used to work in a nursing home when I was a teenager many years ago and saw what a difference it made when a resident had family and friends come to visit them.

Happy Birthday to you and your grandfather!

Bernideen's Tea Time Blog said...

There is a lot of food for thought here. Yesterday a lady in my store recommended a movie. I rented it last night and watched it. "Mrs. Palfrey at the Clairmont". It had a lot of thought provoking thoughts about the elderly too. Thank you for honoring your grandparents!

Steph said...

Oh, I've seen that movie, based on a recommendation from another friend. It was very good!

Southern Touch Catering said...

First of all, let me wipe the tears from my eyes, tell you happy birthday, then go cry! This is the sweetest post. I can see this in my parents as they are going- (although miraculously mom is doing better). Thank you for sharing this. I think I will go make a cup of tea and give my parents a call.
Happy Birthday Steph & to your Grandfather. We share many March birthday in our family, 10 to be exact.