Slumping into bed after a long day, I’m often left wondering what on the Lord’s green earth I actually accomplished.
I know I was so busy that I forgot to eat until dinner, and the tightness in my neck reminds me of the days’ anxieties from putting out a dozen small fires; yet, I’m coming up short when I search for anything of significance that would help me close my eyes with a whispered, “Another day well lived.”
I find myself lying awake, thinking about my Maw Maw who passed away from this world a few weeks ago. I know I’m not really accepting this loss because I went to choose pictures for her annual calendar just yesterday.
How can I accept the loss of someone so real and full and integral to everything I am? Maw Maw wasn’t simply a woman with the assigned role of my grandmother. Every day of my life, she chose me, throwing herself into loving me with all that she had to give.
Wilma Dean, a woman with hardly a lick of formal education and no fame or fortune to boast, was a force in the worlds of so many; and, without her, there is, quite frankly, a gaping lack of home for those of us left behind.
My mind wanders to days gone by and my memory offers up…
Evenings under blankets, her raspy voice reading and re-reading books as I begged for more, sweetening the deal with a flash of the smile she never failed to remind me that she loved.
Afternoons in the garden, me piddling, her happily toiling; rewarding ourselves with a “cold drink” and watching the birds at the feeders.
Driving away from a visit to her house, knowing I won’t see her again for a long time, wiggling my small body all the way around to stare at her as we drive away; waving, waving, tears streaking my young cheeks. Her standing, first at the top of the driveway, and then following behind us, to the end of the driveway and then out into the street, waving back, waving back, tears streaking her care-worn face.
Leaving home at fifteen and traveling alone, cross-country, following that homing beacon that always leads me back to her. Her at the Greyhound station, looking anxiously for my face in the crowd.
The sorrow in her blue eyes as she watches me toss aside my morals like I toss my long hair and plunge headlong into promiscuity and hopelessness; an intensely lost young woman replacing the loving girl she’s always known.
The longing on her face when I move out and get married; the pride in her voice when she congratulates me on graduating college; the knowing smile she gives me as she stands by the bed where I just birthed my first child.
Her laughter, her warmth, her wicked sense of humor, the softness of her skin, the way she clung to me when last I hugged her.
A barmaid from south Louisiana; a self-proclaimed “bad mother” of five who majored in cleaning and mastered in cooking; a simple woman who loved watching Perry Mason re-runs and old westerns and who never had an email address in her life. She of the Diet Cokes and the cartons of Misty cigarettes and of the Dollar Store shopping sprees. This woman picked up a broken little girl and loved her so long and so well that, eventually, God was able to make her whole.
She gave herself to me, sharing her time, her love, her life, her possessions with no reserve. Her home was my home, her stories became my stories, her joy and her sadness she shared with me in kind. What laughter and wisdom and experience she had were mine to enjoy. She held nothing back and, because of that, I bloomed.
Did she, too, lie on her bed and wonder if her days were well lived, if any of these small things would ever be of consequence?
Oh, how I hope she never did!
There’s a beautiful book written by Paul Kalinithi, entitled, When Breath Becomes Air. Paul is a young man who is dying of cancer when he writes his memoir. He and his wife birth a little girl and, while she is still a baby, Paul pens the following to her, knowing that he will likely not live to see her grow:
“When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”
As I lie awake, assessing myself, creating that ledger of my life, I’m reminded that I don’t have to be significant to significantly change someone’s world. As long as I give myself to others – sharing what little I am and what little I have with them – I, too, can love someone – perhaps many someones – so long and so well that, eventually, God can use me to help make them whole.
My small, unheralded, nothing-to-write-home-about days can, like Maw Maw’s, add up to one very great life. My checkered past and my personality flaws cannot exclude me from loving someone so much that I’ll run to the end of the driveway for them, and out into the street, waving and waving as my love leaks down my cheeks, letting them know with every step and every tear that I’m here and they’re loved, at least, by this one soul.
And with that thought I rest. Yes, a love like that is an enormous thing.