She took his strong, young hand in hers and said, "Don't let a day go by that you don't learn something." My grandmother, his great-grandmother, is ninety-four years old. She's lived a hard life, but one overflowing in adoration and love. The light hurts her eyes and she tires easily in our efforts to make her more comfortable, but tonight, in this moment, she is fully awake and she is smiling at him.
Life as we know it has changed for our family. But isn't that the way of things. No tragedy in a life lived well. No great surprises. And yet, there is still a sadness in each of us when we look into her eyes and when we talk with her and when we hold her delicate hands in ours. We are grieving for our yesterdays and wishing we had just a few more tomorrows, but there never seem to be enough of those.
It's been a long time since we've found her stooping to light the stove for Thanksgiving dinner or standing in front of the kitchen sink, wrist deep in soapy water on a warm spring day. The house my grandfather built for her and their children is no longer the center of every holiday, nor is it overflowing with grandchildren laughing and running through its rooms. Life seems to have stopped there, but for the changing of the guard -- six sisters, one brother and years of dedication to caring for their mother, as she cared for them.
But, when we give ourselves time -- Time to sit on the back steps listening to the birds talk to each other before the sun rises or to the cars passing on the road late at night, like they always have -- Time to move around in her kitchen as she did; preparing meals for many, washing, feeding and loving babies, visiting with family over a glass of tea or a cake homemade -- Time to watch her sleep, hoping that she dreams fondly of how her papa doted on her, her husband loved her, her children adore her and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren learned from her -- Time to heal the wound in our hearts with our memories and know, that if they fade we too will be gently reminded by those who love and adore us.
"Don't let a day go by that you don't learn something." I certainly will try, I say to myself, as I listen from the door. My son smiles back with his eyes. I think he knows to store this moment for another day. I will try with all that I am to learn from her wisdom and her example, I assure myself. I will make every effort to live to my full potential and then -- just to be happy, as she has always assured me that I can be.
And when my children lean in, as she pulls them to her for a kiss good-bye, I hope to smile as well as share my tears, because I have learned, it truly is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. That among all else is what I will pass on to my children, as I hope they will to theirs. And that is more than enough. My grandmother taught me that.
~ Helen Virginia Ball Rogers 1915~2010