Tuesday, June 16, 2009

leaving the past, through peaceful valleys go

(from upper left corner)

I have worried a bit about what to post following my last two posts and the depth of the comments you shared..... Then today I put together a small package with a card as a farewell gift to our sponsored child in Sudan, Huwaida, because the sponsor organization notified us in a letter a few weeks ago that she will soon be graduating out of the program (they "age out" at 18). The Donor Relations Executive who wrote encouraged us to send a parting letter and I bought the card last week but it sat on my desk since we signed it because I've been putting off the goodbye to this beautiful girl who we have come to love.

The card was a tri-fold with this printed on the front: All the truth and beauty, all the peace and strength you are seeking are right there in your heart... I thought that was an encouraging message for her.

So, this afternoon I opened the card fully to use the inside for my last communication and I was surprised that on the last flap the card's printed message continued and ended with:
Be still and listen. Be brave and believe.

Then I knew I would share the above piece in this post: an antique, framed, gold-leaf lettering-with-original-watercolors plaque that I found in one of my grandparent's old trunks in my mother's garage following her death......

During the last two weeks of her life when she lay in a hospital bed that Hospice provided in her home I did a lot of fussing over her. I fluffed her pillows, altered the settings of the bed, played music, brought in roses from her fall garden, prepared requested foods that she didn't eat, squirted the morphine into her mouth as she stretched up to take it. It was on one of those afternoons when I was trying to make her comfortable and the hospital bed rapidly unfolded when I moved a wrong lever, causing the bed to flatten totally and her former sitting position along with it, that she whispered to me with her eyes closed: "Be Still, honey, be still." Those words altered the course of all my subsequent actions around her deathbed. It was her last lesson for me and a great and good and necessary one.

What was so very strange about the discovery of the Be Still plaque was that my mother had all of her parents' antique paintings, other plaques, and a child's needlepoint sampler made at Gettysburg up on the walls of every house she lived in since the death of her mother. I grew up around those things. But here was this one dusty plaque lying on the bottom of the antique trunk in the worse shape of the three kept by my mother (the other two contained letters, clothes, "keepers"), with very little else inside and nothing else worth saving. I had never seen it before. Did my mother know it was there? If she did I can't understand why she left it there. After so many decades and moves surely she'd have discovered it and remembered it from her childhood. It was and will remain a mystery, one that I had to use Windex to see for the first time and, as I wiped away the filth of ages and saw the words Be Still, of course I thought it to be a special message for me.

You can click on the picture to read the gold-leaf words but I'm also posting the wording below...

Be Still and Know
-by Benjamin Keech 1909

O heart of mine, be still, and cease repining!
The future ways are beautiful and bright,
For on life's distant paths, God's sun is shining,
If we have but the power to view aright.

Be still, mine heart, and listen to the pealing
Of radiant music from the unseen spheres.
It has sweet messages for thee, revealing
The greater good that waits, in coming years.

Be still and know. The future ways are pleasant
Even as we may make to-day more fair.
Tomorrow brings the fruitage of the present:
Then sort and tend each seed with thoughtful care.

The past is dead. Forget its bitter sorrow.
And, leaving it, through peaceful valleys go.
Bright glad to-day! Thrice bright and glad tomorrow!
Be still, O restless heart -- be still and know.

I feel a personal need to keep this piece at my blog for some days, so the regular Old Postcard Wednesday post will be deferred until Friday this week.



Kim said...

This piece was beautiful and reminded me of so many things--namely the end of my Nana's life and the same morphine giving and stretching up to get it and making people comfortable. What images.

And what a great plaque.

Hattie said...

Thank you.

Erin Davis said...

I don't really have the words right now to explain why, but I have tears streaming down my face right now after reading this. It is speaking to me in a powerful and mysterious way.

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

A terrific 'reminder'....thank you for sharing this heartfelt story.

Looking to the Stars said...

This was beautiful, Lydia! Your grandmother had a lot of wisdom. I can see a peaceful valley for me in the future :)
Your sponser child will love the card.
thank you for sharing :)

JonathanAquino said...

Dear Lydia: I just nominated WriterQuake for Best Blog Of All Time at BloggersChoiceAwards.com, where my 2Rivers is running for Best Pop Culture Blog.God bless and good luck. Sincerely yours, Jonathan Aquino.

Lover of Life said...

Just beautiful and so true. Be still and listen. Very important advice, I think. Thanks for sharing memories of taking care of your mother.

the watercats said...

I'm dumb-struck at the wisdom contained within these lines.... the poem must have been channelled straight from some divine being... thank you.

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Lydia said...

@Kim- You and I share a bond because of our common experiences, you with your nana and I with my mother.
(I wish your nana could read your latest post about your new saying: faster than a cat on fire!)

@Hattie- You are welcome. :)

@Erin- I consider your reaction to the post one of the most touching honors ever offered in "comments." Thank you.

@Wayfaring Wanderer- It's a good reminder for me, too. :)

@Looking to the Stars- Yes, my grandmother was wise to have and keep such a plaque. My mother was wise to share that final lesson with me, among the many that preceded it.

@Jonathan- Oh My! This is a great honor and I am stunned that you would consider my humble blog for such a thing. Thank you. You blog seems to be nominated for an exciting honor, too. That's great!

@Lover of Life- I'm glad you appreciated the advice as I surely do, too.

@the watercats- So pleased that it touched you in a profound way. I've researched the name of the poet, to no avail. He appears to be lost to the ages. There surely is no copyright on the piece so if you find the words fitting into a piece of your original music, wonderful!

@collegegirl- Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving such positive comments. Thank you, also, for voting for this blog --- although I don't know anything about this award. If I happen upon the site where this activity is taking place I will see how the voting works. I also suggest that you consider others in my Blogroll for nominations and votes. :)

M Riyadh Sharif said...

The message is so true dear. And the story you shared is so touching. And I like the mystery thing... some things are better kept mysterious...

I'm sorry to hear that you have to stop sponsoring Huwaida. You have done quite a lot for her and the last but not the least you are sending her a perfect farewell message. Hope she can prosper in her life ahead.

Jennifer said...

I am sitting here, thinking about being still. It was on my mind earlier tonight, how I rush through various things because I have so much to do or complete, and in the process I don't absorb things deeply or live in the moment. Being still is all about being in the moment, which is also what the poem seems to be about (outside of the "greater good" awaiting).

Thinking of you rushing around your mother as she was dying -- I understand it, the rush to do things, to soothe, and to be occupied in the face of death. I'm glad you were able to be still.

Lydia said...

@Riyadh- Yes, the mystery makes it all the sweeter in this case!
I love that you have such a feeling for Huwaida. Keep on thinking of her well-being, will you please? It is very difficult to have the sponsorship stop. Plan has asked if we will once again sponsor an older child who has been on the waiting list, and quite likely will not ever find a sponsor. We intend to do that. In the meantime, we have five-year-old Wellington in Ecuador to watch grow up. It's fun having one for long term and then other older ones in succession to form close but fleeting ties.

@Jennifer- That is very good that you are thinking about being still. You deserve that stillness.
It was during that time that I began practicing yoga, and it got me through. I've really slacked off my practice in the last months and am sick of myself. :) Will do yoga and be still again soon...maybe even tomorrow.



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