The long-life coin has two sides…

10007353_10204165379517767_2136993175969631309_oLast week, I went to visit Honey, my grandpa. We were talking and visiting about my new house and the girls and teaching yoga and about a trip he planned to take and his upcoming hip replacement, scheduled on what would be his 75th wedding anniversary. We went on to talk about Grandma Mary, wedding anniversaries, how many good years they had together and how much he misses her. I know it’s true. He has a good life in Austin with dear friends and family nearby, but Grandma Mary is his truest love and he misses her every day.

Honey is 100 years old. When he turned one-hundred, we celebrated with a big centennial birthday party and everyone was excited. Not only has he lived through a remarkable century, but he did it in good health, good spirits and with a good sense of humor. The party was really wonderful and it was a happy occasion for our family, but something I didn’t spend much time considering on his 100th is that making it this long means he has outlived nearly all of his contemporaries. During our visit, he was saying how strange it is that he has so many wonderful memories with good people in his life and those people are almost all gone. All of his generation of family members has died, and he misses those dear people. Friends that he and Grandma knew, some for many decades, are now gone and he misses those folks, too. And of course, he misses Grandma.

Life is complicated, isn’t it? Honey’s had a good, long life so far and here he is with all these good memories from the past. He likes remembering people and experiences, but then he’s reminded that those people have died, and that’s sad. He tries not to spend too much time focused on the past because he can see that might interfere with life now but he’s at a point that most of his memories, his years on the planet, are behind him. How can Honey, or any of us, enjoy remembering the good people and special times gone by, and not be overwhelmed by the fact that things have changed and some of the important people are no longer in our lives. How do we remember and call up the past and still be living and engaged in the present? I’ve been thinking about this all week.

In the Krisnamacharya yoga tradition, Meditation can be a time to call up or remember an experience. Chase, my teacher, calls meditation a consciously created experience. We might call up a time or a person that embodied or helped us to know love, peace, happiness or some other important quality and we spend some time experiencing it again in meditation. Each time we have that experience, some of it stays with us. It influences how we see the world and how we feel. When we can’t call up a special person to come over for lunch, we may still find the inspiration and the connection that we are hoping to feel in meditation.

People do this all the time through prayer and worship. Honey and I come from a Christian background and Jesus is an inspiring figure for many in this tradition. Neither of us shook hands with Jesus when he walked the earth, but if you asked a Christian if it is possible to have an ongoing, loving relationship with Him, a whole lot of ’em would say yes. Thinking, praying, and meditating on Jesus can change the way we feel. It can inspire us to live a better life.

I mentioned this Jesus idea to Honey and wondered if it related to his ongoing love for and relationship with Grandma. As much as he’d like to, he can’t sit and eat salted peanuts and drink one glass of white wine with her in their old living room before dinner, but can spending time with her can still be meaningful and even inspiring for him? Not in that way that has him pining for the past, but in a way that has her with him here, in the present? We didn’t work it all out or come to any conclusion during our visit, but the conversation has left me with thoughts about mourning and loss, the love that lives on and the memories that stay with us in the present. And I also carry with me such gratitude that I can drive a few minutes to sit with Honey in his living room. I have memories of him from childhood but have now, too.  I can go to his apartment and share little chocolate eggs wrapped in pastel tinted foil from a dish and talk to him about what is going on in his life and mine. I have so much admiration and love for this wonderful man I’m so happy to have him in my life.

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5 thoughts on “The long-life coin has two sides…

  1. honey sounds amazing. a dear friend of ours, now passed, ached to finish life and “be with” the love of her life (she came from a catholic tradition). how beautiful that love was! i couldn’t agree more with what you’ve written here, and it certainly gives one pause for thought in aspiring to longevity…

    1. So much of what we experience is bittersweet, yet this conversation with Honey struck me as particularly poignant… It made me think of how few of us will know his kind of experience– Extra-long life in good health, good spirits and with a sharp mind. From where I sit, at not quite 40, 100 seems like such a gift or even an achievement, but a little time with Honey and once again, I’m humbled by how little i really know and how much I can learn by listening.

  2. Love conquers all. And we live, and live on, in each other. Thich Nhat Hanh talks beautifully about how his mother and other ancestors live in him. And love is the ground and the state and the bond that causes it all to work. Your grandfather embodies love, and he has shown the way to you and, no doubt, to many others. Beautiful post, Amanda. Thanks.

    1. oh, it has been so long since I’ve spent time with Thich Nhat Hanh. I’d love to read his thoughts on this, maybe share it with Honey. Do you remember where you read this idea, Bharat?

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