“Isn’t she lovely? Isn’t she wonderful? Isn’t she precious?”
My sister almost whispers as she sings Stevie Wonder to her four-month-old granddaughter. Her voice has the sweet lilt of a summer breeze, almost too quiet to hear but too tender to miss. My jaw lets go of words and loosely hangs, slightly ajar, as I stare into this sacred moment, inhaling the softening that moves through the air. This wee one is raptured, and then with reflected light, beams like a moon and coos Stevie Wonder in reply.
My three-year-old grandnephew moves through the world full throttle, excited and adventurous, there is nothing subtle about his breeze. Yet, when he beholds his baby sister, there is wonder in his eyes, something about her slows him down. He lowers his face close to hers and speaks a language only siblings know. His sister’s face breaks open and gurgles happy bubbles. She pumps her arms and legs and her little fingers and toes curl.
* * * * *
Mom, three months shy of her 96th birthday, has declined. As I pack, I wonder, “Do I bring a suit?” I feel guilty for having the thought and at the same time it feels honest and brave to have asked. In the end I do the sensible thing, I bring good shoes and a nice belt. Since her respiratory infection and a flu quarantine in the nursing home, I can feel her fingers releasing their grip. There was that October poem . . .
The raindrops on the window,
Turn the outside pond into a Van Gogh.
Color and form bleeds and bends
The heart, as in a dream.
Like teardrops, blurry and soft
Wherever I might look,
I see mom hands, always her hands.
Hands that have held, kneaded, and prayed.
See-through flesh that shakes
Like a leftover autumn leaf.
Holds on for dear life,
Or, longs to know how to let go?
Mom’s tiny body is tipping left in a recliner that has become too big. Despite all the setbacks, her skin is still buttery smooth, and her eyes have hints of hope.
“Can you help me sit up?” She sighs, “Oh, I’m so thirsty.”
I hand her the nursing home version of a sippy cup. “Take a drink of water, mom.”
“Then I will have to go to the bathroom. Why is my mouth so sore?”
“You’re dehydrated. Mom, you need to drink more fluids.”
She ponders the catch 22 for a moment and then asks again, “Why is my mouth so sore?”
“The ice water will make your mouth feel better.” This time she drinks.
And so, one sip at a time, over the course of a week of reminiscing, tiny samplings of home-cooked meals, watching her kids play games, streaming “I Love Lucy” and Shirley Temple movies, and just being in the den with her litter, mom once again tightens her grip. I don’t know that she chooses to live but she chooses to let her kids’ love snuggle up to her precious and exhausted heart.
It’s quite the miracle, how love works—the warmth and light that comes from an open heart and the way it works its way into the receiver and becomes a bedazzled jewel. It’s perhaps the most elemental truth—we are born to be loved. We all entered the world with this hope, this longing, this essential need. Despite our growing up, we never grow out of the need. Like my grandniece and mom, we silently yearn to be the sunshine in someone’s eye, love that makes our toes curl and causes our hearts to quiver.
With That Moon Language
Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to
them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us
Why not become the one who lives with a full
moon in each eye that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language, what every other
eye in this world is dying to hear?
14th century Persian poet
Here's the most unexpected love line—we are the ones we have been waiting for. Oh, if we only remembered that in addition to being loved by others, we can be our own beloved. We have the capacity to be both sun and moon, seer and seen, compassion that springs from our own well, and waters all the places that hurt.
Contact me for information about Mindful Self-Compassion, a powerful empirically-based curriculum developed by Kristin Neff Ph.D. and Christopher Germer Ph.D. that teaches the skill of self-compassion, enabling us to respond to difficult moments in our lives with kindness, care and understanding.
Daily Bites and Blessings
Welcome to "Daily Bites and Blessings." Pull up a chair. I’ve set a place for you at the table. These edibles are sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and often they are both. This is a come as you are party. I invite you to bring your compassion, courage, and curiosity as we dine together on life's bounty. May our time together give us more light and more love.