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I would like to share a story that has become one of the most precious experiences that I have had since my journey with Inner Tapestry began. This issue's cover art is not only recognition of an exceptional artist, but of a special person who I have grown to admire over the past few months for the warm and generous person that I have been fortunate enough to come to know.
It all started late one evening, as most issues do, while looking at artwork for the cover of the journal. I came across a web gallery of artwork created by both a father, Tom Mitchell and his son, Andrew. My story is about Andrew.
The reading and writing of poetry is always a gift to be treasured, and this is true in a very particular way for elders. As our consciousness continues to evolve, working with time, experience, and the tools of intention and awareness we access deeply intuitive levels of mind; poetry invites us to enter completely into the openness of this altered state.
As we pass through the gateway of poetry, we set out on a journey of infinite wonder, where we harvest unexpected stores of wisdom and beauty within us. Fully present, with concentrated attention, we reap new understandings from the rich memories of a long life. Then, when we turn this same focused awareness to the present moment, fully alive to our senses we find ourselves living more intensely and experiencing more fully.
Last week my grandfather, my father’s father, died of cancer. He had cancer for almost fifteen years. At each step, he’d conquer the cells at hand, live somewhat worry-free for a while and then new little demons would move in. Eventually he had a certain grouchy acceptance of his fate. He was getting older and he’d beaten many odds.
A couple months before he died I visited him at his home in Florida. He was inching ever so slightly closer to letting go. He was not the sort of fellow to indulge in soulful talk about death. And so as we spanned topics, all ordinary in nature, my heart raced alongside clamoring to retain—his inflection, his gestures, his words. Mostly his presence. I needed to go beyond hearing so that I could remember.
My journey into elderhood is, quite frankly, determinate upon believing that I have passed through adulthood and am ready to go to the next stage of my development. However, I am not sure that growing older is a linear event because there are moments when, at 62, I will find myself back in the center of adolescence once again. A reaction worthy of a teenager steeped in self-centeredness will appear out of the blue and prompt me to say out loud to anyone who might be within earshot, “What was that all about? It’s like I’m back in eighth grade.” Then there are times when I might regress even further, into what feels like childhood with a parent watching from inside my head. I really try to keep my little one playful and sweet, full of wonder and innocence, especially when I am with my grandchildren who love my inner child. I try my wise woman out on them from time to time but they roll their eyes and help me to stop taking myself so seriously. Now and then though, I’ll catch the older ones pondering what I have just said, and an expression of both confusion and knowing will come over their faces. This is when I feel most like an elder. I have reached toward, and grabbed, a moment of who I am today – with all the years and experiences to back me up – and imparted what I believe to be truth to the younger generation who may not know it, but are craving the stories that elderhood can provide. In these moments I like who I have become. I am deeply centered and sure of myself. Not cocky or cynical like the adolescent could be, and without the ego defenses I needed during much of my adulthood.
Her hand trembles, but not enough to spill water from the cup as she raises it to her lips. You can see each vein, through the translucent skin from her fingers to forearm. She sips, the folds of skin around her throat moving as she swallows. She puts the cup down, sighing audibly with a smile.
“Well, let’s get started,” she says. “Give me your hands.” She takes your hands in both of hers. Immediately you feel peace. Subtle pressures from her fingers coax the day’s stresses out of your palms, fingers, and thumbs. Warmth moves up your arms and into your shoulders. Your heart suddenly aches, in a good way; your eyes feel prickly, and there’s a tickle in your throat, making you gulp.
These are the qualities by which I chose to guide my life in my elder years. But, in order to be tangible, they had to have character; they had to come alive so that I could include them in my everyday struggle to become whole. They are role models based on women I have known who personify these qualities for me. Their example makes it possible for me to fulfill life’s blessings.
Dad died in August this year; my own father… a physician and internist, the one who inspired me to be a doctor. It is hard to believe that he is gone; from my sight, from our holiday meals, from our daily lives. What will the Holidays hold for my family and me? This year will be different.
But it was always Dad who said not to worry, that he would be fine. I remember when I was in 9th grade and called 911 after I found my father collapsed in his chair, slumped over his desk in the library where he read each night. He was in the hospital for two weeks; when he came home he was very weak. The only thing good that happened was my mother let me drive his car to school and back every day. I felt quite proud of myself, even somewhat “grown-up.”
Envisioning Your Life
Engaging Soul's Potential
Living Without Your Baggage
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