I think the value of reminiscence is found when we let our reflections shed light on the difficult experiences of our life.
It was twenty-two years ago today, on September 7, 1999, that my mother passed away. She was only 70 but seemed ready to go long before her time. I often wondered what the purpose of my mother’s life was. She never seemed very happy. My dad would say her purpose was to bring my siblings and me into the world. But still, I thought her purpose had to have more meaning than that. While I didn’t learn from her a lot of what most mothers teach their children, I did learn from her mistakes how to be a better person for myself. Sometimes the purpose of other people’s lives is to teach us the hard lessons we need to learn independently. Mom didn’t know that while she was simply trying to survive that she was teaching me how to survive, too.
Reflection: I remember one of the most profound moments I had with her was just a few days before she passed away. Mom wanted to attend a mass service they were having at the home she lived in. I held her hand, and after she received communion, she laid her head on my shoulder. I realized for the first time how childlike my mother was, not just at this moment but that she had always been like a child searching for love the same as I had. Maybe we all are not so different in that way. For it is love after all that binds us together and makes us whole. I am grateful at the end of my mother’s life, she had a sense that God loved her, and most of that, l loved her too.
You get married and begin a family all your own. Together you build upon the traditions you both bring into your little family, and before you know it, years pass by. The traditions you build upon and the memories you make are what pull everyone back together again. There is something about tradition that gives you a sense of belonging. It reminds you who you are and where you come from and gives you that comforting feeling that you are home again.
As a grandparent, I feel an even stronger sense of responsibility to keep our traditions alive. I hear in the grandkids’ voices who are growing up so fast. Still, they get excited about being together during the holidays. We had to make a few changes over the years, and they are always most happy to come back to Granny and Pop’s old traditional way of doing things. These traditions are the things we do repeatedly so often that they become embedded in the minds of the younger generations of our family. There is comfort in knowing that we will be remembered just like our own parents and grandparents before us through the traditions we hand down.
This past year the pandemic played a bit of havoc in our traditional time spent together as a family. But in reality, it has only made us realize how important our time is together.
Reflection: It feels like the pandemic has given us another chance to see the value of what our family means to us and to build upon the importance of those valued traditions and help them grow even stronger. We are so very grateful for this time in our lives.
I thought with February being the celebration of black history month that it’s a great opportunity to dive into how I could find meaning and value in it for myself.
While there were few good things to say about my experience of being abandoned and living in Stanton Child Center in Philadelphia. I did learn a lot about the black people I lived with. The hurt and pain handed down from their ancestors were so deeply embedded that no matter how hard I tried to embrace them there was always a lack of trust almost like a protective shield they put up and rightly so as this was the ‘60s and they were fighting for their rights.
One of my most memorable experiences was celebrating black history month. It was like a day of thanksgiving for all who had gone before them bravely fighting for their rights to freedom and liberty they deserved as well as all Americans. I ate soul food that day and my black friends enjoyed watching me try food like black-eyed peas and chitlins and joking as I passed by the pigs’ feet.
It was the first time I saw posters of hero’s they honored like Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat on the bus which sparked a movement. Booker T. Washington a well-educated African American who helped improved the lives of his people. Harriet Tubman was known as the conductor of the Underground Railroad which leads to the escape of enslaved people to freedom in the North. It was an awakening at a time when I was too troubled myself to appreciate all that it could teach me.
Looking back Fifty-five years ago it seemed most important for the African American community to understand their own history and how hard their people fought for their freedom. As the Black Lives Matter movement has come to the forefront and we want to know, as people of different cultures, how we can help change things maybe it begins by understanding Black American history for the facts they have to offer us. Honoring, validating, and embracing the history of our past and diving into the value it has to teach us.
Reflection: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I don’t always understand. The courage to step out and change the things I can through knowledge and an understanding heart, and the wisdom to know the difference between right and wrong.
I often wonder if I’m the only one who gets so caught up in what I’m doing that I forget why I’m doing it in the first place. How easy it is to get stressed out about everything turning out perfect that all the joy of what I’m doing gets lost somewhere underneath it all. Thinking like this is simple like uttering the word Thanksgiving but not living out what it means to be thankful.
Stopping right now before I do anything else. I am already feeling grateful for this simple moment of silence that gives me the opportunity to reevaluate what I’m doing and why. I am so very blessed to have the abundant family that I have to share with. What can be more motivating than to hear your grandchildren say how much they love getting together at your house for the holidays. To also know that you’re providing a special meal for those who live alone. Last but not least to know how much my husband enjoys all the food and most of all the leftovers that come with having it at our house.
I thank God for the reminder of the meaning of gratitude. It never fails to turn my negative thoughts into positive ones that create an abundance of thankfulness.
Today is the 15th Anniversary of my Dads passing. I miss his smile, his wisdom, and most of all his hugs.
Parents are like God in a way. They hold, care, tend, and love us even though they have their own agendas in life. At some point they have to put us down so we can walk on our own. Dad’s death was a time for me that felt as if I was wondering in the desert all alone. I wondered how I would know how to do all that was yet to come without him to talk it over with. What I learned was that just like God’s word had been planted in my heart, mind and soul. So had the wisdom of my Dad’s words. Two fathers working together to teach me how to stand on my own and live the best life I could.
Those that we love in this world will leave us one day. Cherish the time you have now with them. Learn from the wisdom they have to share. And as my Dad would often say to me, “take what you can from my words that resonate with you now, and leave the rest behind for another time.”
Today I went back to place I lived in Philadelphia. I haven’t seen since the day I ran away in 1968. That’s 50 years ago. It was an institution in Philadelphia called Stenton Child Center. My younger sister and I were supposed to feel fortunate that we were in such a nice place. Most of the places the state provided for abandon children were pretty run down. There is no place on earth that could be better than being with your own family no matter how difficult things are at home.
I didn’t know how I would react when I actually saw it. As we began to approach I felt only a moment panic, that quickly turned to curiosity. I couldn’t believe how much it looked the same after all these years. The memories so fresh in my mind and stories yet to tell. I couldn’t go inside because it’s now a shelter for homeless families, but I was okay with that because I felt like the monster it represented in my mind for so many years no longer had a hold on me.
On my way home I wondered about how this applies to what I wrote about yesterday in relation to place of shifting I find myself. Of all the different places I’ve been, this was by far the worst ground I’d ever worked in my life. But it’s also yielded the most growth in my life. It was a time of planting, growing, and nurturing. It was full of many cultivating opportunities that could have yielded many weeds, but instead continues to teach and bear much fruit.
I am not only in the winter of the season, but nature teaches another lesson in my life, that I am in the winter of my shifting cultivation. A time to rest, re-evaluate, contemplate, let go and chill out on a icebergs going with the rivers flow.
Everyone has an opinion of what being in the later years of our life should be. That’s perfectly okay and normal because we each see and experience things from our own perspective. What goes into our perspective is a whirlwind of emotional, physical, psychological, social and spiritual experiences, and let’s not forget the learned behavior we’ve brought with us. The bottom-line is that we don’t know any more about this last stage of life then we did the other stages we went through. However, after many past stages of life I’ve learned that by embracing each one along the way I’ve been able to experience life from a different more deeper perspective than the one before. As I attempt to embrace the senior years of my life, I find myself looking back a lot. Not so much in a longing of wanting to go back, but more of how far I’ve come. These are the years that give birth to all the wisdom I now hold within, and as I discover this, there is a sense of satisfaction in how far I’ve come, what I’ve learned, the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen. As long as I have a clear enough mind I’ll always feel like I can do most things. It is in the trying that I learn my limitations. It is true that growing older is not for wimps. A lot of time and energy is used to get ourselves moving and being a part of life. I’m learning to embrace the limitations as they present themselves, and I work hard at not giving into the gravity that pulls me back into the sitting position where my body would be perfectly happy to park itself.
So, if I talk about being older at times, it’s because I am. If I talk about running out of time, don’t chastise me. Just bring me back to where I am right now. If you think I’m obsessing over it, don’t tell me how to think, but help me to embrace it. And if I can’t hear or understand you, don’t brush me off and say never mind. Give me a chance to hear what you have to say.
In closing I share my opinion of the later years of my life. I am a senior and that’s okay. I am getting older, but I’m not old in the sense of giving up. I’m not afraid to be where I am or say where I’m at in this stage of my life. I’m a senior and that’s okay with me.
“When a knowledgable old person dies, a whole library disappears.” –An old African proverb
I read an article today from my local newspaper titled, “Older people have knowledge to share—if we just listen” by Bob Rudy. It caught my attention for several reasons, one being that I spent time as a hospice volunteer a few years ago listening to the fascinating stories of people’s lives. Not only was it interesting to me, but the way their faces lit up as they told their stories turned out to be a gift for both of us.
I’ve also been working on my families genealogy for over 20 years now. I was fortunate to start it at a time when my parents were still alive, and as I dove into it I found myself wanting to know more about what their life was like growing up. They’ve both been gone a long time now and still I have question I wish I would have asked. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have never taken the time I did though to get to know them. It is true as the quote states as each family member passes away, a whole library disappears.
The other reason this subject is close to my heart is because I am a story teller myself, and as the younger generations calls us, I’m an older person myself. I like the phrase that getting older is not for wimps, because it is a time in a humans life when we have to work really hard to hang onto what we have. Sometimes it even feels like your slowly disappearing, fading into space as we lose our hearing, sight, coordination and many other facilities that make you feel like a child again. But ask us to tell you one of our stories and we become energized. Our eyes will light up, and just maybe we’ll feel like our lives matters once again, and you’ll hear a real live story like the ones you read in a book you borrow from the library.