My husband and I went to dinner with our longtime friends Brian and Bea the other night, 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 inspires 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.
My friend Bea said the question her husband asked her made her feel a bit inadequate, as she wasn’t planning on taking up sewing again. 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. And she was just fine with that.
I felt the same way about one of my past creative hobbies: cross-stitch. I took up writing instead between kids’ naps.
And, yet, while the idea of doing woodwork or a sewing item as an heirloom to pass on from one generation to the next is awesome, it does not take a physical item to be remembered.
I remember my “Omi,” which is the endearing way you say grandma in German; Omi 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, you are so dear and 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. She truly loved me so much and showed me by the way she made me feel valued and important.
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. And I told our friends that they are amazing parents to their three girls and they are wonderful grandparents to baby Theo and that they will be remembered for this very thing: love.
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, that is what I strive to do and be as a mom and Omi.
So, yes, building an heirloom piece of furniture or sewing some shirt and creating some cross-stich are all nice things. But in the end, what will our kids and grandkids and others in our lives remember about us? How we made them feel. It's about love.
I think of the book Love Does by Bob Goff, who shares: “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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