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!