“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.
Or so I thought.
They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.
Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.
I now share them with you.
My mother used to say:
“I may be small, but I’m strong.”
My mother was 4’11” tall. She was “petite” but fierce. Her hands, though small, were strong. As wayward children, we knew her vice grip well. She could beat a 6′ tall burly man in an arm wrestling match. But her eyes, oh those eyes. When she was angry, her eyes were like steel and ice. And if that gaze was directed at one of us, we knew we were in deep trouble. She didn’t have to utter a word. Just one look.
Throughout her life, she suffered a series of debilitating illnesses – from brain clots, osteoporosis, and heart problems to multiple cancers. She was always in pain, but rarely showed it. She whistled through it. She laughed at it. She refused to succumb to it. She despised weakness and was damned if she was going to let anyone see her vulnerable.
When she experienced a life challenge – physical, emotional, family related or economic – she bore it defiantly… almost like daring it to bring her down. Except that it never did.
Even at the very end of her life, with cancer festering rapidly throughout her small body, she looked at me – smiling and loving eyes penetrating my soul – and she said “My darling girl, don’t cry for me. I’ll be fine.” She was 79. I was 45. I was not fine. I was losing the most precious person in my life.
In the years since, I’ve experienced some interesting life challenges. Friends and family have expressed their amazement at how stoically I’ve handled myself, how strong and resilient I am.
I’ve had a good teacher.
“The strength of a woman is not measured by the impact that all her hardships in life have had on her; but the strength of a woman is measured by the extent of her refusal to allow those hardships to dictate her and who she becomes.”
“All the natural movements of the soul are controlled by laws analogous to those of physical gravity. Grace is the only exception. Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void. The imagination is continually at work filling up all the fissures through which grace might pass.”
― Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
For many people, myself included, this has been a difficult year. Despite that, I’ve come to the realization that all of the year’s blessings, though considerably less in number than the hardships, are (one-by-one) mightier (in force) than all the challenges combined.
The few blessings have given me hope, solace and joy.
The few blessings have somehow managed to outweigh all the pain and suffering.
The few blessings have made me deeply grateful.
The lesson to be learned is that “Grace fills the empty spaces.” The blessings I’ve received this year are nothing short of pure grace.
In the spirit of this holiday season, count all of your blessings. The challenges come and go. The blessings, however, have staying power.
Note: the pictures are of “Ollie” — I rescued this abandoned kitten <she was 5 hours old, see photo at the very top> and she is now a little over 3 months old <photo above>, and thriving.
She is my greatest blessing of 2013.
“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”