Saturday, February 14, 2009

Only Love Remains

For those who love... time is eternity...
Henry Van Dyke
About a year before my grandfather died, I had a fascinating dream.
He and my grandmother appeared to me as Native American elders, down by the creek in my backyard. They looked nothing like themselves—with long, graying braids and thick, wool blankets draped over their shoulders for warmth—but I knew it was them by the way they walked and talked together . . . I could feel the love between them.
We embraced and talked for a while, and as they turned to leave I said, “Grandma, Grandpa—please take me with you.”
“No, honey, it’s not time for you to go,” my grandfather said. “You have a lot of work to do.”
“But I want to go with you,” I said.
He smiled at me with so much love—I could feel it—then gently touching my cheek he said, “No. It’s not your time. You need to lay off the boys and finish writing that book. That’s your job right now.”
Grandma giggled at his warning.
“Tell me then,” I asked: “What’s the secret to the magic of your relationship? How do you still have so much love for each other after all these years?”
My grandfather looked at her, taking her hand in his, and said, “I have always carried great respect for your grandmother. That’s because she has always respected herself. No matter what happened, no matter what anyone ever said or did to her—or against her—she never let it change the way she viewed herself, her core values or her self-respect. Make sure you find a partner who loves and respects you; but remember, it starts with loving yourself.”
I watched as they walked away from me, hand-in-hand, talking and laughing, and I was filled with exquisite knowing—even in my dream state—that their souls would be together forever; their love was eternal.
I woke up crying.
For the rest of the day, I walked around in a haze. My heart understood the greater truth—the evolution of our souls through time—but I was sad and slightly confused. Was my dream a message of pending death? Had I actually had this conversation with them—soul to soul—somewhere in a parallel universe?
“Sure, kid—that’s me,” my grandfather laughed when I told him about the dream. Then, in his light-hearted way, he rattled off some historical facts about the Native American culture. But small talk aside, I knew in my heart that he wouldn’t be with us much longer.
Then, last summer, the messy truth of congestive heart failure ravaged his body and took with it his will to live. His had not been a protracted illness, thank goodness, but he was tired; ready to go. It was his time. 
Forever the deep thinker—there in his hospice bed—he struggled to share with me one last bit of wisdom. “My sweet child,” he said, “Remember this: We come into this world with a framework for society . . . or at least we think we do . . . there’s the body and the soul . . . but only the soul lives forever.”
The next day he passed quietly, surrounded by his family. We hugged and cried. We ate casseroles and pies delivered by church ladies. We moved gently through funeral arrangements, wakes and eulogies. And we comforted each other with loving memories of our patriarch; a bitter-sweet mixture of joy and pain.
At times, it was hard to tell if my tears came from losing my grandfather, or if they flowed from a heart bursting with love.
For a short time after the funeral, I stayed with my grandmother in their family home. I watched her move from room-to-room, at times seeming lost; other times, finding moments of joy and laughter in the midst of her grief. Her strength inspired me.
After 60 years of life together, everything had changed. What was left of a life well-lived?
Only love remained.
When it comes to love, there’s always a risk—that we’ll get hurt, that we’ll be rejected, that our beloved will leave us behind. But the only way that any of us will ever fully open our hearts to the beauty of Life is by loving. It’s the energy that made us and, I believe, the only thing of value that we have to give.
This is the Law of Love.


Bob said...

Hello Melissa,

I read your story "Only Love Remains" in a copy of Highlander.

Those ready to go often see those who have gone before coming to welcome them. Your grandfather knew is time was coming, as did you. You saw his spirit before he crossed, as it was his eternal example that "spoke" most clearly to you.

The words your "grandfather" spoke in your dream about respect for your grandmother are powerful because it is the only basis on which an eternal love can be created, and that too starts with the self. The eternal spins backwards and forwards and, with respect to eternity, it is always your time to be.

Many thanks!

Melissa Johnson said...

Thanks for reading and commenting Bob. You are so right about time--and the way it moves us forwards and backwards, ever present.