Friday, July 18, 2014

Greatest Good

This week marked eleven years that my precious Nana has been gone. While I'm incredibly grateful she is no longer in pain, there is still a huge hole in my heart that selfishly wishes she was still here. Not a day passes that I don't think of her. Ours was a special relationship from the very first moment. She would often tell the story of our first meeting, not long after my birth, when she held me in her arms, and I gazed up into her eyes as if to say, "I know you!" And based upon the connection we continued to share the rest of her life, I have no doubt that we had known each other long before this lifetime.

There is no memory of the exact moment she began sharing her spirituality sprinkled with  unconventional religious beliefs, as it seems as though every moment of my life was infused with them. It was as if she knew that someday I would need a deep, unwavering belief in something greater than myself to get me through the physical and emotional pains of loss and disease. She was my spiritual touchstone and one of my greatest teachers.

Nana was well ahead of her time in many ways. She embraced the great thinkers such as Gary Zukov ("The Seat of the Soul"), Deepak Chopra, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross ("On Death and Dying") back in the 60's and 70's, well before alternative medicine found its way into mainstream society. She authored articles in magazines like "Science of Mind", "Guidepost", "Reader's Digest" on subjects from the power of positive thinking to the right to die. She was a dynamic woman with a traditional grandma look, and I loved being her granddaughter.

It is hard to pick the one most valuable lesson she taught me, as there are so many, but I think it would be this; she taught me that the only way to be truly happy was to have inner peace.  It was something that required discipline and hard work. It wasn't something you could just meditate about and it would be done. It took patience and work, prayer and humility. Blow out anger, breathe in unconditional love. And she always emphasized the need to try to practice forgiveness. Such was her path to inner peace. It may look like an easy recipe on paper, but it had taken her a lifetime of practicing. And she was the first to admit that even during the latter years of her life, she still had to work at it.

Nana was like the Mother Teresa of her nursing home. Despite suffering from horrible pain as a result of fractures caused by her osteoporosis, she would get out of bed each day and go visit patients who were actually "sick". She didn't believe herself to belong in that category. Nana would just sit and listen to those who didn't have family, and it made her feel good to feel needed. I never truly understood what that meant until I got ill myself.

When it got to the point where Nana couldn't make the rounds anymore, she traveled the world from her room. I would call her, and she'd say, "I just went to Scotland, and it was beautiful!" The travel channel was an international roundtrip ticket to her. It amazed me that, despite being almost bedridden from her pain, she kept a positive attitude. But that was the thing about Nana. She didn't allow the outside factors of her life determine her mood. It was the inner peace that kept her happy. She didn't need the outside world to make her glow. She glowed from within.

She sometimes come to me on lonely nights when pain is my only companion. I feel the gentle presence of her when tears are falling down my face. She washes over me like soft rain with her unconditional love I've always known. On her deathbed, she promised my mom to speak through our wind chimes. Even when the pain is so horrible, it is almost deafening, I will hear the clanging of the chimes and know she is near. 

There was a wish she would present me with often, especially when I was feeling uncertain and frustrated. She would always say to me, "I hope you reach your greatest good, and highest joy!" It seemed lofty at times, and I would wonder what I would be reaching for, my greatest good and highest joy? Over time, I have found an answer that feels right. My highest joy is doing this, writing this blog, sharing my thoughts with benevolent intentions. As for my greatest good, I believe Nana left the breadcrumb trail to that. Every day I try to get one step closer to inner peace. And overall, I don't think it's about HOW much inner peace you have, but rather that you are living with the qualities that will eventually take you there.

I miss her all the time. There are three things I say to myself that ease my sadness. 1) I am so thankful that she is no longer in pain. 2) It soothes me imagining that she is with my son Gabriel. 3) I know that someday, I'll see her again.