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Winter Lesson: Taking Hold

February 12, 2015

flowers in winter

Last week, a lady told me her 83-year-old mom had just finished her second Ph.D.

Last month, my 77-year-old widowed aunt came calling with her 78-year-old widower beau.  It was as if Jean Pargetter and Lionel Hardcastle  (from one of my all-time favorite sitcoms,  As Time Goes By,)  had stepped into my living room. 

I was delighted by these folks.  They made me feel as if I could smile at the days to come — that contrary to some experiences, aging is not a specter.   And yet.  While these stories are heartening, they are also exceptional.  A dichotomy exists. 

Old age can hold delightful surprises.  Diplomas and love and a thousand other things.

And…aging is not for sissies.  For starters, there can be a lot of bad hair days.  Not to mention, that you will need to reach very deep, and draw upon decades of reserves. Or that you will likely lose your beloveds, and maybe your faculties and independence.  Aging is not for the faint of heart.

Last summer, my mom gave me a winter lesson.  We sat facing each other; me in the courtyard swing, she in her wheelchair. She had acknowledged my one-sided conversation with bright eyes and smiles, but no words . Then her head dropped, her eyes closed, and I thought she was dozing.

“You need to know,” my mom said, puncturing the quietness.  She struggled to raise her head and open her eyes. “You need to know,” she repeated, and paused.  She looked past me, and strained, “Sometimes you have to take hold of things you never thought you would have to.  But you have to take hold of them.”  A longer pause, “You need to know that.” And with that, she dropped her head, closed her eyes.

The breeze  stopped and the words had no air on which to float.  They landed, heavy and hard.

Only my mama and God know how much effort was required for her to articulate those words, get a message to her daughter.

Take hold of things. 

Face the rough things.  Head-on.   Ah, my mom knows human nature.  The default is to escape, not deal.  But here is the real deal, you can not outrun or outmaneuver the rough things.  Trying to escape does not make them less rough, less real. 

Dealing also does not make them less rough, less real.  But dealing does render, does reward.

Dealing involves another dichotomy – taking hold and letting go.  Letting go of the way things were.  Letting go of the way you wish things wereYou let go, so you can then take hold of what is. 

Interestingly, the original working title for the aforementioned sitcom was Winter with FlowersWho expects flowers in winter?  Who finds such a thing in a harsh season?  Maybe those who take hold of things they never thought they would have to.

Five Valentine’s Days ago, my family gave my mom flowers.  The little card in the flowers has been propped in her kitchen window ever since.  I remember writing this card.  I wrote it with hope and quiet doubts (a summary of my faith).   There have been times in the last years when I would glance at this card, and beg the words be trueAnd there have been times when I would glance at this card, and feel mocked. 

But now, the words ring true and pure.  It took awhile, but time has told.  


the little card

And now for a little treat, click here.  (It’s worth waiting through the ad)

Ruth Moody of The Wailin’ Jennys’ sings with such a true and pure voice. 

In her words,

When that storm comes
Don’t run for cover

When that love calls
Will you open up your door

May you take hold, and let love through your door,



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