Many of you probably already subscribe to or watch TED talks and you may have seen this one. It is informative and uplifting, without being judgemental. If you want to understand, this 20 minute interview is a good place to start.
You have probably heard the expression ‘pearls of wisdom’, and to some degree that befits this story. However it is even more than that. It is a story about paying attention to our commitments, the feelings of others, and being in the moment.
We had a visit with Mum in March, tho we have just returned a few days ago from our most recent visit. During the March trip we arrived one morning to her apartment and she presented me with a small plastic bag and the remnants of what was once her favourite pearl necklace. Knowing I used to make jewellery and still had the tools, she said to me “I know it isn’t worth much but it means something to me, will you fix this for me?” To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to repair it because my jewellery making days are done. I’m kind of like that when I’m done with something. I don’t usually go back to it, though things can wax and wane over the years before I reach that point. But I would do just about anything for my lovely Mother ( just as she has done for me over the years) so I said I would do my best and return it to her.
Mum’s memory is not what it used to be (not sure mine is either, for that matter!). There are days when she remembers things and days when it is a struggle. She told me she had forgotten to remove the necklace before going to bed that night and it had broken in her sleep. She had searched the sheets and carpet for what pearls she could salvage but I could tell from looking at the remains in the bag, some were missing. The cleaner had already come that morning and vacuumed and changed sheets, so any unfound pearls were well and truly gone by now. That would make the task more challenging.
As one does with things about which we are unenthusiastic, I delayed repairing the necklace until a couple of weeks before our return visit. I estimated there were about 20 small pearls missing. Perhaps you will call it luck; I call it synchronicity, that the only pearls I had, other than a few freshwater pearls, were small glass ones. They were the perfect size and near perfect colour to complete the necklace. How did that happen?
When I returned the pearls to Mum, she was visibly happy, and immediately started to tell the story of how she came to have them. It was the first thing she bought herself, with her first pay check as a registered nurse, back in the late 1940’s. I had never heard that before and was so glad I had persevered to repair them.
A couple of days later, my niece was visiting us and the conversation led to my recollection as a small child, probably in about 1959 or 1960. I was watching Mum getting ready to go out for the evening; most children are fascinated to watch their parents do ‘grown up things’. I recalled her putting on makeup, which she seldom wore, and then opening a velvet covered, shell-shaped box to retrieve the jewellery inside it. Mum sparked up as I was recounting the memory, and said
“That was the box the pearls came in, and I still have it!”
“What?” I was truly shocked.
“It is in the bedroom in a little compartment on the bed head.”
Sure enough, when I went to look, it was there. It was an epic, full circle moment, an insight to my Mother’s life that may never have happened–if her necklace hadn’t broken, if I had not kept the tools to repair it, if I had not honoured my word to repair it, if she had not kept the box, if my niece had not visited, if Mum hadn’t had that moment of clarity…if, if, if…
Life is much more miraculous and surprising at times, than anything I could ever imagine.
When we try to help others, we often receive a gift even greater than that which we give. Personal insight. Recently, while trying to help another person I recalled this passage from my favourite ‘children’s book’, which, I did not read until I was 22 years old!
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse, “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
–The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams
It reminded me to love myself, wrinkles, bulges, grey hair and all. The journey it has taken me to get this way has been worth every step.