Thursday, May 15, 2008

on stories

I drove slowly as the country road was winding its way into the distance out my rearview mirror. Fresh flowers sat in my passenger seat; the ones I picked myself just minutes before.

I exhaled.

It was that kind of day, with my window down and traces of the summer to come sinking into my senses; the smell of fresh-cut grass and the way the hills are alive with a vibrant green you can only see this time of year. I love this season. The old has faded away and given birth to what is new and fresh. Life. Summer is around the corner, but if you look for it too closely you will miss the beauty that is springtime. I am beginning to understand that there is rarely anything more symbolic of the human heart and spirituality than seasons; until you have braved the coldest winter you will never come to love summer nearly as much or as deeply.

I flipped my turn signal on and pulled my car onto the gravel road that would take me where I was going; the local cemetery. I have never been to a cemetery that I loved, and in fact, most of them aren't places I would choose to go of my own volition. But in Colfax, you stand at the top of the world and look out over creation and the whole town is at your feet. You can see the sky change its color and watch the moon rise over the horizon. My Neenee is here – my grandmother. I parked my car and made my way to the most beautiful headstone of them all and laid my flowers right under the verse 'where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'

I sat down, leaned my back on the tombstone and closed my eyes, wondering what she would think of the seasons of my life that she has missed, or rather, that I have been missing her. Anyone you ask who knew her would tell you that she was the most beautiful of them all; everybody loved her. When I stop and visit where she was laid to rest, I think about life and legacy and love unconditional. I usually sit and stay awhile, and tonight the sun sinking had set the clouds on fire, and there were colors I had only seen on canvas. I breathed it in and brushed my hands against the cool grass.

I wonder what will become of my story when I am no longer here to tell it. I wonder what will be said, and whether I will be remembered and whether or not I was a friend to be trusted and counted on. When all that is physically left of me is a stone on a hillside, will my memory stir love and will it move people to do things that matter? Will I have moved enough for what matters?

As time goes by, I ask these questions less and less, mostly because I realize that either way, she would have been proud of me. She would call me beautiful and she would touch my cheek and tell me that I belong and that my eyes remind her of the blue of the ocean or the sky on a sunny day. She would tell me to be more present and mindful in the moment and to not wish time away because it dissolves into yesterday so quickly. Some of the decisions I have made would not impress her, and there would be no hesitation in her telling me so, but she would be proud nonetheless. She would love nonetheless.

My eyes and thoughts wandered from one headstone to another as I imagined what their lives were like and who their children were and if they loved and laughed enough. They were doctors. They were mothers. They were life-changers. They wrestled their giants and sometimes they won. They were lovers and fighters, winners and losers.

I am captivated by stories lately, and not the kind you hear from the grapevine or the gossip on the nightly news. I am drawn to life stories: struggles, strengths, addictions and triumphs. I have noticed something in almost every story: there is conflict to separate the good seasons, a winter of sorts, to bring a more full appreciation of the day that the traces of snow will finally melt away to summer.

I like stories.

Sometimes I don't like that they wait to resolve, and I want conclusion or the promise of a happy ending. Then I realize that what is beautiful is today, and new mercies, and this moment and all the challenge and potential that is in it. Right now. That I have the power to change, and to be changed; to love and be loved. That the reason those 'choose your own adventure' books have such a draw is because they were meant to echo reality. We really do choose our own adventures, and we really do have the power to write our own endings and everything that rests between the first and last pages of our lives.

Neenee's story spoke and it is still speaking. More than anything, I want my story to speak of love and wisdom and passion. Of mercy that was not wasted and grace that was not taken for granted.

I drove home newly purposed.

1 comment:

AngieG said...

I miss you Neenee too!