There are all kinds of messages for me every day of the year, they are invariably fascinating.
They are sometimes uplifting, sometimes, disturbing, sometimes extremely helpful. The messages I love are much like the ones Jeanne Blue send me yesterday when I wrote about our visit to our friend Mary Kellogg, who is 88 now, in an adult home 30 miles from the farm.
They are just wise.
Mary sorely misses her farm, she left in ambulance months ago when she fell down, and has not been back. It is not clear, give her health and confusion right now, if she should see it again or not. I can’t really know the answer to that.
A lot of people responded to this post, and I was moved by how many cared about Mary and were upset that she hadn’t been back to see her farm, where she lived alone for 30 years after the death of her husband Dick, and where she wrote her beautiful poems..
“Why on earth can’t she be taken now to her farm?,” asked Ruth. “And if not now, when? What criteria need be met? Do they not understand time is running out and there may not be a ‘better’ time. I am so sorry to read this though I don’t know the details, it seems heaven and earth should be moved to make it happen.”
I got several concerned messages like that, and I wanted to tell them that all that Ruth was right, the answer is in the details, and if we don’t know them – I don’t know them – then none of us can judge from a distance what Mary should or shouldn’t do.
Heaven and earth don’t ask my advice, as a rule.
I feel so badly for her very loving family, it falls upon them – at Mary’s request – to make these difficult decisions, and I know how much they care about Mary, I can’t imagine knowing what they should do or telling them. If they think it’s a good idea for Mary to see her farm and Maria and I would be happy to take her back, and I know they would also.
But that depends on the details, and there are many to consider, and none of them are visible to us.
These were messages of our times, impatient, angry and demanding. I wonder if sometimes social media has destroyed our ability to listen and consider. We are so quick to judge, we are so reluctant to listen. We live and write in grievance.
That’s what I loved about Jeanne Blue’s lesson, it was thoughtful, empathetic and helpful. It didn’t presume to know, it made no assumptions, Jeanne was simply sharing some wisdom that was very helpful for me to hear. In a few considered words, she really said it all.
“In 30 years of working with seniors the largest truth I have learned is that the people who have had the least amount of change in their lives have the greatest difficulty coping with aging… Embrace and practice change. It is the one thing we can all count on.”
This is such a wise and useful message for me, for everyone, for Mary too. It is also what my life is about, embracing and accepting and practicing change.
Talking to Mary yesterday, listening to her, I thought things I didn’t say, she was not in a frame of mind to hear them, and it was not my place to say them. She kept looking at me for guidance, wanting to know what Maria and I thought, but I didn’t tell her, it just didn’t feel right. This is not a decision for me to make.
But this is what I was thinking:
I kept thinking of Paul Tillich, who wrote “it is our destiny and the destiny of everything in our world that we must come to an end. Every end that we experience in nature and mankind speaks to us with a loud voice; you also will come to an end.”
Mary’s life on the farm had come to an end. I might have said this:
“You had such a wonderful for 87 years Mary, you told me you loved every minute of it. You were always surrounded by a cloud of love, your husband Dick, your children, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, your friends, your beautiful farm, your birds, cats, squirrels, wildflowers, garden, your deer, your books. So many treasures of the heart. Towards the end of a life, you fulfilled your dream to be a published poet, and brought your beautiful poetry out into the world.
I am sad about where you are right now, but I celebrate your life. Where you are is nobody’s fault, it is just life. You are where everyone of us will be, if we live as long as you, and it will be no simpler for us than it will be for you. There is no changing it, turning back the clock, giving back your clarity, mobility, health and strength. The dead cannot return to you, neither can the fierce clarity of your mind. And yes, it is sad, it is a shame.”
Jeanne is so right, she is really talking about my cornerstone faith: accepting and embracing and practicing change.
I believe if I continue to work on this now, perhaps I can accept the harder realities of my life when they get to me.
I have a good friend who simply does not know herself, and runs away from taking responsibility for her life and her choices. It is always the fault of someone else, nobody else gets it right, life is unfair. She is learning now and will continue to learn the hard lesson that Jeanne already knows and I am beginning to understand.
Everything anyone says about me is true, to them, if no one else. That’s why I need to listen, and not always know.
If we were living totally within time, we would not be able to elevate ourselves to the eternal in prayer, meditation, honesty and thought. We could not ask the question of the meaning of time.
It’s nobody’s fault, Ruth, that Mary may not ever see her farm again. It’s just life.