27 February 2009

a few treasures

to my dear ma and pa

dear mother:
thank you for bringing me back three pens and two sets of markers when i only really needed a nice black pen because i lost mine the day after i bought it.

dear dad:
i think it's so sweet you were so worried about having lost nicole's camera. you tore the house apart looking for it and you felt so gosh darn bad. but it was really in danielle's book bag all along.

aren't they just the cutest ever?

can you see the resemblance?

for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you

That's my favourite line from Walt Whitman. Read it here.

This morning, as I was reading my Buddhism homework, a lot of things clicked.

My Grandmother has always been a very happy and content woman. She led a very full and exciting life. But she didn't have to be traveling the world to feel that way -- she could find just as much joy in watching the sun rise from a folding chair on her front porch as seeing the pyramids or the Eiffel Tower. She could delight as much in a Little Debbie as a pastery baked in one of Europe's finest shops. A ride around her yard in her little yellow golfcart was just as good as any weekend roadtrip.

I saw my aunt for the first time in years last week. We sat down for some brownies (a pre and post dinner treat) and my aunt noticed me break off a piece, roll it into a ball in my fingers, and then pop it into my mouth. "Hey, you roll up each bite just the same as me!" I turned my head to look at my aunt. First the smiling face. Then the brownie ball in fingers. I grinned a choclately smile at her and we laughed. Conversation continued.

Now, I've only seen Aunt Sue a few times in my life. We definitely haven't spent enough time together for me to have picked up that habit from her. My mother eats everything with a fork; I didn't learn this from her. My other aunt doesn't really have much of an appetite for sweets. I surely did not take that from her. The only other person Aunt Sue and I have in common is Grandmother.

Such a small, silly thing. But she'll live on in that.

I've been taught my whole life that Heavenly Father has a plan. That He has created all, all is created by him, and we are all kindred in that. My father's close attention to detail has often pointed out to me the absolute genius of this plan in the interconnectedness of all things. You see, all of the life on this earth works together. One exists for the other. For shelter, for energy, for food, for growth, for wisdom, for protection, for love. Life is not solitary, but overlapping. And this is the beauty and the brilliance -- where one lacks, another fills.

I keep hitting a wall with the word "empty" in my Buddhist readings. I hate the perception of life as empty. I look at my Grandmother and her understanding of how full and wonderful and simple and lovely each and every day can be. Wisdom in emptiness made zero sense. But today I read from a chapter on Mahayana teachings. Once again: higher wisdom=realizing emptiness. However, the idea of this emptiness in Mahayana is closer to svabhava-sunya -- "empty of own-being." Wisdom comes in recognizing that nothing can exist on its own. Sunya, in Sanskrit, means "hollow." Something that looks solid, but is actually hollow inside. Freedom comes from realizing that nothing exists on its own, because once you realize that nothing exists on its own, you can see it as it really is. You can put away harmful attachments, defilements, and delusions. You can see every living thing as beautiful and glorious as it was created to be.

"Each being needs the full matrix of life to be what it truly is."

It's amazing how rolling my piece of brownie into a small ball can make me feel closer to God. It's also amazing that He cares enough to know that that one small reminder of Grandmother makes me feel fuller.

(Thank you Mr. Donald W. Mitchell and your book Buddhism)

23 February 2009

boy i'll tell you, life sure is short

My friends and I have a list of the ugliest words in the English language. Words like "moist" and "fester" and "soggy" -- words that (by themselves and paired with others) just make your skin crawl and your stomach squeeze up real tight. Like moist for instance: if you've seen Heath Ledger as the Joker in Dark Knight, can you picture that little tick of his, where he moistens his lips, the slippery smacking sound it makes, the redness of his skin, and the saliva just shining on his face. Sick, right? Well, we have a whole list of words like that. Words that are just a little too good at what they do.

I've added another word to that list: dead.

Dead. Death. Dying. Died. Deceased. Dead. Dead dead DEAD.

The word is just so pronounced and final from beginning to end, so quick and to the point, so empty, hard, and unaware -- uncaring, insensitive, so ignoring -- of all of the baggage that it drops at your door, all the ugly, twisted scars it leaves on otherwise smooth skin, all of the hollowed out space it leaves cold and bare, or even the quiet, peaceful moments, and strengthened bonds. Death is just dead is just dying, and it died.

My Grandmother died on Saturday. I know Grandmother shouldn't be capitalized there, but I think she always deserves a tall G. If you've ever had a conversation with me, you've heard at least a little about this woman. She is the greatest, kindest, strongest, silliest, smartest, most wonderful and gentle, peaceful, and happy woman EVER. I love her with all of my heart -- she is the center of my world, always has been.

I'd never thought of my Gram as "old" before. I mean, she was turning 89 this year. That's not that old, is it? She's never acted old in her life.

I'm home for another week or so, and I plan to continue my digging. I've already packed away my share of jewelry and sweaters, sweet sneaks, and chic scarves. I've pawed through hundreds of photos and I will spend a lot of time in the next week scanning them. I'll keep writing, too. I'm penning down all the great lessons and stories of Gram -- from her courage as a single, working mother (in my sister's words) "when being neither single, nor working was fashionable for women," to her quirky cures involving tub after tub of vaseline, to cozy bubble baths and moo-moo's, decades of dancing, dating a lesbian (what a story!), taking off and traveling the world, to her legendary love and patience.

The other day in the hospice Danielle was talking to Gram. Daniel O'Donnell was pouring from the cd player on the bedside table. Her foot was tapping. She took a break from dancing with her right hand and held onto Danielle's. Gram took a deep breath. "I just want you all to know I am doing alright." And she let out a grand "Whoopee!"

Stayed tuned for more tales and photos of a real life wonder woman.

Eva Marie Byerly 1920-2009
(p.s. it's pronounced Eh-Vah, not Eee-vah.)
Eva Marie Byerly

19 February 2009

hanging out at the hospice

Today Gram decided we should have a New Year's party tonight. And we should all wear costumes.

18 February 2009

pick me up

14 February 2009

all you need is love

happy valentine's day

09 February 2009

07 February 2009

by the way

p.s. my roommate katie let me use her SWEET zoo animal sprinkles the other night. sawwweett!