A few weeks ago when I was moving some stuff around in our colossal mess of a storage room, I unearthed a tiny book my Grandmother gave me on my 17th birthday (which now seems like a hundred years ago). It's called Hope For Tough Times by Robert Schuller. I can't imagine now what "tough times" I was having at 17 that inspired my Grandmother to make this purchase, but I'm now so grateful that she did. Now is when I need help. Now is when I'm experiencing a truly tough time.
I remembered that she'd written a cute little poem inside the front cover and I opened it up to read it again, even though I know it off by heart. I love seeing where her pen touched the paper and running my fingers over the words. I can feel the impressions and in some strange way it's almost like I'm touching her again.
"A little fish swims in the well, so in my heart does Kristin dwell."
It has made me smile for 18 years.
I put the book on my bedside table to read later that night. I thought maybe there might be a message inside that would help heal my heart just a little bit - maybe a message I missed when I was a teenager with problems and sorrows no where near as big as the ones I have now. Little did I know what I'd find when I opened the book again.
There was a second message from Grandma - one I'm almost positive I've never seen before. I have to admit it, I probably didn't read the book when she gave it to me. In fact, I vaguely recall thinking it was an odd choice - irrelevant to me and my life, in fact. Maybe that's why I missed the second note she penned on the page after the poem.
"Stand up to the things no so pleasant in your life but enjoy to the fullest the joys."
I was stunned. It was something I so needed to hear - a reminder to see the joy despite the pain. And not just to see the joy, but to feel it too. The message came at a time when I was struggling with my joys - when I was feeling guilty for experiencing them just weeks after my sweet baby boy died. But the message came from someone who had more than her fair share of sorrow throughout her life too. Her father died when she was 5 and they buried her mother on her 16th birthday. She knew sorrow intimately and she knew how to fight back against its awesome power. I saw the sorrow in her eyes, as I see it in my own now, but I also saw her experience the joys and make the most of every sweet thing her life had to offer. She loved ferociously and she spent her life giving all she had to the people who meant the most to her. It was her joy.
And 15 years after she died she somehow managed to tell me to try to do the same - to live and love and let the sweetness of happiness back into my life. Her sorrows were always part of her, but so was her joy.
Thanks Grandma. I love you.