Hour of the Nightingale

My grandmother had a prayer, though I must confess to never hearing her say it. My parents would ask us to say it before meals, and we always rather enjoyed this time together as a family.

Oh Lord, bless these gifts

And fill our souls

With peace & happiness.

Amen.

We’re all on different paths, as much as we like to try to believe we’re never alone. It’s things like Grandma’s prayer that keep hearts from sailing too far away from home. Wherever home happens to be. We spend time away from the people we love, often by choice, but more so by necessity. We make peace with this time in our own ways.

And maybe the idea of God came about so that humans would have someone to talk to when we needed guidance through personal storms. The people we love don’t love us less in return if we fall short, but that doesn’t always stop us for thinking they would. Somehow we all stopped believing that failure was an acceptable part of being alive, and failed to learn that being hard on ourselves about this is a waste of time.

Today I was privileged enough to be able to spend the day driving around the places I knew as a child. I visited the same patch of sky I looked up at before I knew there was more to the world than my back yard and our church. Before today I wasn’t entirely sure why this place means so much to me. But I think I get it now.

I don’t have any bad memories here. And I come to that conclusion with a heavy heart, because I only spent a small amount of my life in this place. My very first memory is of my grandmother and I sitting on the floor in my room playing with plastic farm animals. I couldn’t have been much older than three, but I remember. Oh yes.

After that, Grandma was in a nursing home, having suffered a paralyzing stroke. That’s where we visited her as kids, all the way up until she passed away. I’ve got two or three quite vivid memories from her funeral. And today – three days before my 49th birthday – I sat by my grandmother’s grave stone for a good while, thinking about our lives.

There is still no year of death listed on Grandma’s grave stone. She was born in 1912, and as far as anyone passing by is concerned, she’s still alive and well at the ripe old age of 110. For her family, I suppose, we can see it as a sign we’re supposed to think of life as lasting forever… or something like that. We’re always searching for meanings in things. Hard to let it all just be what it is.

I could hear the birds chirping. Squirrels gathered fallen food off the ground. Remnants of picked over elderberry. Animals all happy to be breathing in the air, and not protesting your inclination to join in on the breathing thing.

These beautiful things somehow not yet extinct despite the golf course behind grave site and the busy road in front. Sandwiched in between industry and leisure, my grandparents lie side by side on a small 3 acre plot of land that sits next to a church on a hill. It is a fine place to both find and keep peace, and when time finally catches up with the pavement, and the edged grasses – and yes, even the church – my grandmother’s place of rest will remain.

And what of my grandfather? Today was the closest I’ve ever been to the man. He passed away six years before I was born. Yet somehow part of me felt welcome sitting there with them both.

My grandparents brought me some much needed peace today. As for the happiness… that isn’t mandatory. Peace. Is a little slice of Heaven. We can only hope to leave our families with twice as much hope as was left for us.

I would like to send love and respect to the many grandmothers of the world, and to all of the mothers who will one day be grandmothers.

J.W.

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