Throughout history, the image of a grandmother has been one of a wise old woman who holds the family together while teaching important life lessons. At least once a month I can be heard saying, “As my grandmother says, ‘Put up or shut up.’” Yes, my grandmother taught me to either do something or simply stop complaining. Or, she just said this mantra so much that I internalized it as the Grannie proverb.
My grandmother, to whom I call Grannie, is a small tough Italian lady. She has inspired people, motivated people and cared for people. She has been through numerous wars, presidents, cancer, the death of both her husband, son (my dad) and her best friend/sister. She was alive before television! Yet, like all of us, she is not without flaws. I say this because it is easy to forget that those we look to for guidance are human too. They need and want love and happiness just like us. When we see their flaws with compassion and empathy, we can love them and forgive them more easily. This strengthens our connection, which supports our sense of belonging (a feeling many need so desperately these day).
In preparing to attend Grannie’s party and visiting with her more recently, I have spent time reflecting on my relationship with her and how it has influenced me. Now in reflecting on this past weekend where many people came together to celebrate Grannie’s 100th birthday, I am drawn to the quote that encapsulates the mission of this blog and my work as a developing compassion teacher.
May we relinquish the belief in our separation
and find the courage to connect with a compassionate heart.
This weekend provided many people the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and friends. Some of us let go of the pains of the past, embraced the moment of celebrating life, and took a step toward a future of forgiveness and acceptance. Seems like a deep experience for a birthday party, but this was not an ordinary experience. When a matriarch turns 100, one soon finds out the broad impact she has had on people’s lives and the connections she’s nurtured. Children of her former neighbors calling your grandmother Granny Grace is a testament to her positive impact, to her natural tendency to care for others. Our world needs more grandmotherly people like Granny Grace. Observing these interactions helped me to reconnect with Grannie, to let go of any suffering that lingered, and to appreciate the climate of joy our gathering created.
My grandmother’s personal and caring relationships with every single person that attended has connected us all in some way. Grannie unknowingly orchestrated our common humanity. Just like me, Grace Duart has affected your life. This forever joins us in such a way that we can see and appreciate each other. This was not just a 100th birthday party, but a day to rejoice in our interconnection. Thanks, Grannie!!
I was filled with the joy of connection that I felt compelled to speak with a woman I have found terribly annoying in past years. I listened with compassion as she shared her recent struggle with work. Relinquishing the superficial barrier I put between myself and this woman supported her need to be seen and heard. Flexing my compassion muscle opened my heart to more experiences that day. I reconnected with my second cousin. I rejoiced as my daughter forgot her fear of performing and played happy birthday on her trumpet in front of everyone. I witnessed significant others being introduced for the first time and embraced with hugs and acceptance. And this day became an important moment in my sister’s recovery. We all had something to gain and to give–we (re)connected not only with others but with ourselves.
To witness my grandmother’s joy and the wide smiles of all the guests touched my heart in such a profound way. Grace Duart opened everyone’s heart last Saturday and our (re)connection filled them with hope. Thank you, Grannie, for giving us yet another life lesson: Connection to family and friends is our lifeline to happiness and to experiencing love and acceptance. May we relinquish the belief in our separation and find the courage to connect with a compassionate heart.