My husband and I went to dinner with our longtime friends Brian and Bea this weekend, and I mentioned to them the January 17 passing away of one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver.
Oliver’s message of finding the beauty in the ordinary, calm in the chaos, the awe in the everyday complemented her emphasis on being fully alive in the one life you have been given.
I think of the last two lines of her poem, The Summer Day, which challenge us to number our days: “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Our friends piggy-backed off of the theme of this verse, saying that they had just recently spoken about what the next stage of their lives would bring as they near hanging up their work hats and savoring the adventure of grand-parenting.
“What do we want to be remembered for?” is the exact question our friends have been pondering lately.
Brian then related a story of some wood furniture that his grandfather had built, furniture which was passed down to Brian’s father, and it got Brian thinking about what he could potentially build–what heirloom could he pass down as his grandfather did, as a way to be remembered.
And our friend Brian asked his wife to consider, what could she build with her hands. Before they had children, she used to sew clothes but, as they had children, she didn’t sew any more, but rather focused on raising her kids. With her longer work hours, keeping up their home, and most importantly spending time and energy raising twins and a third child, Bea just didn’t have the interest or time to sew anymore and didn’t want to re-take up the hobby in this next stage of the adventure of their lives. And she was just fine with that.
I felt the same way about my past creative hobby of cross-stitch. I took up writing instead between kids’ naps and have not done cross-stitch in forever.
And, so, sure, while the idea of doing woodwork or a sewing as an heirloom to pass on from one generation to the next is a great idea, it does not take creating a physical item to be remembered by people.
I remember my “Omi,” in Germany and how she made me feel so loved and cared for and that I mattered, just by the way she treated me. When she saw me, which was only every three or so years since she lived in Germany, my Omi’s face would light up as she took my face into her hands and she would say, “Cornelia, oh Cornelia, I love you so much,” and we would go on hikes in the woods in Germany and we would stop for lunch at a restaurant in the woods to eat and she would show me how to find wild mushrooms in the woods, and later we would play Canasta card game and she always always always told me how much she loved me but she also made me feel as if she loved me by her presence.
Yeah, my Omi. I remember her so fondly, and I sometimes cry just thinking about how much I miss her. It was the love she gave that I remember.
And our friend Brian mentioned how much he loves his little grandson Theo and how he wants to make a difference in this little boy’s life as does my friend Bea. And I told our friends that they are amazing parents to their three girls and that they are wonderful grandparents to their grandson, and that they will be remembered for this very thing: the love they give. It’s something you cannot touch but it’s something you feel.
Giving their kids and grandson time and attention and asking questions and just being there for slow savoring days and moments is what matters. And, it is what they will ultimately be remembered for. And, it is the very thing that I remember my Omi for and the very way I strive to live as a mom and Omi myself now.
Love. Loving God and sharing that love with others.
I think of the book Love Does by Bob Goff, who shares: “You don’t need a plan; you just need to be present.”
“Living a life fully engaged and full of whimsy and the kind of things that love does is something most people plan to do, but along the way they just kind of forget. Their dreams become one of those “we’ll go there next time” deferrals.”
Yeah, love. It matters. It may be an “intangible” thing but it is oh so real and oh so fully engaged.
It’s a way to live this one wild and precious life.
It’s how I know I want to be remembered.
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