My Gran passed away last year at the age of 98. I still miss her terribly. She taught me to see and sense like an artist.
Five years ago she had an awful fall that fractured her hip in several places. As with most people of her age the doctors said that she would most likely die of complications.
As I began to grieve I recalled how as a child I had spent many happy holidays with her near the ocean. Gran would take me for walks along the cliffs to look for whales that brought their calves close to shore for safety. We would revel in the grandeur of the sea, the sky and the mountains. We would stoop to examine the lichens, the tiny bush flowers and the curves and twists of shells. Our senses would delight in the distinctive aroma of the fynbos*, the briny sea spray, the crunching shell grit underfoot and the whipping winds. Gran taught me to experience nature with deep attention.
Only days after her fall, despite excruciating pain, my Gran got out of bed to walk again. Her recovery was slow and extremely difficult, but after several months she was fit enough to return to her nursing home.
Instead of to her sunny room with the garden she had lovingly planted and the Butcher birds that visited her daily, she had to move into a high care ward. The ward was filled with sadness and human suffering. Still mentally alert and engaged, Gran felt socially isolated and helpless. She began to struggle with depression and anxiety.
When I visited her a short time later, I expected to find her in a state of resignation. To my surprise she asked me to buy seedlings and bags of soil and to plant a new garden outside her room. Even in such painful circumstances she chose to hope, she determined to connect with nature and to create beauty.
To many, my Gran’s life would appear small and her influence insignificant, but not to me.
I wonder who has inspired you and helped you to be fully yourself?
* fynbos is natural shrubland or heathland vegetation located on the Western Cape of South Africa.