Since I began this blog I’ve written new stories and visited old stories and other things I’ve written and saved over the years. Some of the writing I like best I’ve found in letters, and this piece is spun off a letter to a niece I’d like to know better. I’ve only met her a handful of times… but that’s another story.
I often refer to the tapestry of our lives because I think it’s the perfect metaphor for how our lives are woven together by threads, seen and unseen. Even when we think it’s unraveled in places, there are still hidden threads holding it together.
My niece’s visit awhile back allowed me to muse on “long time lost” family members and shared family traits. We discovered we both loved Indian Spice tea, writing, and teaching Yoga. She found her voice at an early age and has been writing for a long time, and has a Yoga studio in Florida where she teaches. She inspires me!
There seem to have been too many lost members in my family, including my sister, one of my sons, my niece, my mother Maxine, and now my oldest brother. Over time I hope to tell you a little of each of their stories and our connections, but today is about Maxine, the mother who gave birth to me.
When Maxine returned to my life after a twenty five year absence we spoke of those long lost family members many times. She would have enjoyed getting to know all of them, and although she was once diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, they would have enjoyed her company. She had a radiant, child-like spirit that could light up the universe when she allowed it to shine through her eyes, her smile, and her being. She gave the biggest and best hugs ever, anywhere. She called them “for real” hugs, and when she hugged you, you knew you were loved and that’s all you needed to know.
Because of her illness she awoke each day believing that someone was lying in wait for her, to do her harm, and yet everyday she arose from bed, put the tea kettle on to heat and lifted her voice in prayer and song and asked God to help her through one more day. She faced her demons daily and vanquished them with song, prayer, faith, and courage.
Her return to my life was a time of unexpected discovery for me. I thought I knew exactly who I was and how I had come to be me. Physically, I knew my body was built like the women on my father’s side of the family, and my facial features resembled my mother’s side of the family. Most of the other traits I carried with me I attributed to my father and to my other mother’s sterling example of how a person should behave. There were also “unclaimed” traits that I felt were unique to me, mine alone.
However, each day I spent with Maxine made me believe they weren’t so unique, after all. We shared crazy things like a love of big bowls, dishes, large oval platters, blue jeans and t-shirts, corned beef and cabbage. She prepared that meal for me the first week she arrived back in Indianapolis after a 25 year absence, and again during the last week of her life. We also shared spiritual things like kindness, quietude, solitude, a sense of all things sacred, nature, sharing, prayer, walking, singing, and hiking in the woods. We shared earthly things like shopping for clothes, or a bargain When she found something wonderful she would say Jesus put it there just for her. We loved roaming through aisles and aisles of antiques and old household items looking for a treasure. We shared the love of other things like setting a pretty table (simple but pretty), poetry (she wrote very simple poems), cooking, especially making a pot of soup, and birds, just to name a few. This unearthing of familial surprises was enlightening, and I found great joy discovering a truly meaningful connection to someone who had been lost to me for so many years.
Since my reunion with Mom I have been fortunate to come to know some of the other “long time lost” family members, and it is now quite apparent to me that we all maintain connections through these shared likenesses and shared joys whether we are in each other’s presence or not. Our spirit holds and keeps safe an internal awareness of the unseen threads that weave our hearts and lives together, creating a tapestry for us to enjoy if we are able to open our eyes and hearts to see it. I wish everyone could truly see and recognize the threads that hold and connect all of our lives together. The world would be a better place for it.