“Ring the bells that still can ring…’’- My hope for 2019

A few events in the past month are worth recording for my children. I’m not sure how they all tie together, but let’s see how it all plays out.

Sleep just about catches up with me when my mom walks into the room while we are on holiday together.

“Listen to this,” she says, before she continues. “Why am I afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and grace and song and laughter?  Why am I afraid to live, I who love life and the beauty of flesh and the living colors of the earth and sky and sea?  Why am I afraid to love, I who love love?”  From the play ‘The Great God Brown’ by Eugene O’Neill.

It got me thinking, about how the word used most in this quote is ‘afraid’. Somewhere along the road of life we become afraid to love.  And there are a million valid reasons as to why.  But inside of us is the breath of a loving God, breath that is love and life.  Every breath is a gift, a blessing, a privilege.  Inside of us is the love of the God of love, endless and unconditional.

I sit on the beach and look at the waves. My breath is like the waves, I discover.  When I breathe in and my stomach expands, it’s a wave that swells and swells and swells even further.  Then, that incredible moment when the switch is made between breathing in and breathing out, the wave that has reaches the point of completeness and the moment it bursts open.  Finally, the breathing out, the wave that breaks and spills forth and cleans itself from the immense swelling.  How amazing, God’s breath that is love and life in me and how it is mirrored in the waves, endless and all-consuming.

A few nights ago, a heavy sleeper log falls on a boy outside our little holiday home. From afar, we only see the stillness of his legs as he lies on the ground.  People rush towards him, surround him.  We watch with breaths held.  A few minutes pass.  He stands up.  All is okay.  We walk to the beach and after a few minutes I realize that my parents are trailing behind.  As I turn around, I see my mother, slumped on my dad’s shoulder, her own shaking vigorously from breathless cries.  She looks up, eyes wild with pain unspoken, etched with sorrow and fear like a bottomless pit.  How far she must have gone back in that moment when she saw the stillness of the boy, back to another boy next to a road on the outskirts of Vryheid, breath that is love and life slowly seeping out of him.  Her own son.

And I think of her and my dad and ‘Oom’ Gerrie and ‘Tannie’ Merle, ‘Oom’ Piet and ‘Tannie’ Wilna, ‘Tannie’ Mariëtte and my friends Maritza and Anna-Mart, to name a few, who this past Christmas found themselves once again and for the first time with love in their hearts for loved ones that have passed on from this life. I think of how this love in their hearts cannot be given away.  It is reserved only for the special ones who are gone; it swells frustratingly upwards like the waves but can’t be spilled.  And so it stays there, in their hearts, painfully etched.  Maybe, dearest Mom, this is also a reason why you, who love love, are afraid to love.

I watch as my father and husband teach our son the game of chess and limit their capabilities in order for him to win a game or two. This is also love. Then again, when they use their capabilities and win, they also show the love that they hold in their hearts for their little son.  They are helping him walk on roads that lead to the discovery that some you win and some you lose and to finding that love in his little heart for himself and others to be okay with it.  Then I watch them play another game, and another, and another, their patience rising above and beyond like kites playing above a colorful beach, until our son has the skills and courage to play the game well.

I watch as my little daughter walks around everywhere with her little first aid kit and doctors all that is a little scrape and bite on our bodies.

“Mom,” she asks after putting a plaster on my husband’s toe, “do you have any sores?”

“Yes,” I tell her as I show her the blister underneath my foot from the hot sand.

“Mom, I think you should come with me upstairs and lie on the bed. Then I can have a proper look at it.”  She looks at me with worry in her eyes.

As we walk to the beach to greet the new year, I ask my mother what she would have done differently thirty years ago that would make her life easier today. If, for instance, she could have foreseen that she would spend two months in a hospital after a hip replacement last year, what would she have done differently back then?  I tell her of a beautiful friend of mine who decided a few years ago that she will not drink a drop of alcohol again.

“I told her how I admire her for it,” I say, “and then she told me that it’s all about staying as healthy as she can for as long as possible. She underwent tests by a genetics professor and it was established that she has the Alzheimer’s genes from both sides of her family.  Her grandmother has the illness and is currently in frail care.  She says that she must keep her head going, eat healthily, not drink alcohol and exercise regularly.  That way she, her husband and children can know that she did everything in her power to prevent it should it happen one day.”  Once again, I get goosebumps as I tell her this.

A while later, as we swim in the sea, my mother tells me that if she could do one thing differently, it would be to let my sister and I believe that we are beautiful enough.

“How do you do that?” I ask, well aware of the challenges we already face in letting my little daughter believe this truth and that outward beauty is but the tip of the iceberg.

“I don’t know,” she replies, “I guess the answer is in how I love myself and how I believe this about myself.”

I think of my friend who is showing her incredible love for herself and her family as she is doing everything she can to prevent Alzheimer’s.

This morning, as we visit my father’s brother, he climbs on a ladder with a rake into the lychee tree that is literally bursting with fruit.

“Pick up and take everything!” he says. The lychees are the most amazing that I’ve ever tasted, sweet flesh abounds around tiny pips.  His unique way of showing the love in his heart to us is litchees that come raining down in sheer abundance.

A few events in the past month are worth recording for my children. I’m not sure how they all tie together, but I see the magical thread of love in all of them.  I see people with endless love in their hearts, put there meticulously by a loving God.  I see people whose hearts have been broken countless times, people who love love, but are understandably afraid to love.  I see how they want to love, regardless, as the love in them transcends all else.  It’s stronger and wiser than anything else.

And so my hope for 2019 and beyond is that we will realize that the Breath that is within us, that makes us alive, is perfect love above all else. I believe that we can love one another with love that is devoid from fear.  I believe that each and every person that comes my way are beautiful beings that are able to love and want to love, but struggle to do so.  I believe that they still desperately want to love and even more desperately want to receive it.  I hope that we all will, in the words of Leonard Cohen, “ring the bells that still can ring…forget about your perfect offering…there is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.”

And I believe that love is everywhere to be found, now, as the stories above tell.  It is everywhere to be found because it is in us.

And that is all I need to know now.







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