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The Expanse of My Past
April 6, 2015
Photo by Banjoman1 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
My paternal grandfather died just before my 4th birthday, what I remember the most about him was the love he had for me. I was his seventh grandchild and all he wanted to do was make the most of this little-one while visiting from the countryside. The moment he saw me, he'd gather me into his arms and hug me relentlessly. And all I wanted to do was get away from him. I squirmed, and struggled against this bear of a man whose booming voice I could not understand.
My grandfather grew up on the seashore of Falmouth, Jamaica, and like all the members of his clan was a fish that happened to live on land. He spent so much time in the sea, his ears were constantly water logged and often got infected. His mother tried to allay these ear infections, and one day accidentally ruptured his eardrums while siphoning the water from his ears. It was a sad event that changed his life profoundly. And although he was deaf and never learned sign language; he did read lips! With this ability he was able to harvest information in a unique way; and this he did with purposeful economy.
Many years later, I as a young adult asked my older sister, why was grandpa so demonstrative in his affections? She replied simply, “Because he loved you.”
Now why is it we remember some things and not others? I remember this exchange with my sister more clearly than conversations only a few days ago. Likewise the memory of my grandfather’s affection and my agitated resistance came to mind recently.
As it happened countless months had passed since I had been able to sit in God’s presence without physical discomfort. Within me an army of heavy artillery waged war and I could neither sit nor recline in His presence. It seemed perfectly futile to try anymore; and perfect lunacy to expect any change.
So in my damaged state, I had taken to walking in the woods trying to capture in a different way what I had lost in spiritual peace. But on a cold, quiet and foggy morning as I sorted through the effects of a recent family celebration, the impression of my grandfather’s loving nature came upon me suddenly. And in what seemed an instant, I was aware of something familiar yet hidden. In the quiet mist of early morning I began to see what had happened to me; what I had been doing for months. It seemed that at the “dignified age” of 50 I was behaving like the disagreeable little 3 year old I was long ago; writhing about in the embrace of a person who loved me with abandon - just like my grandfather did. In the fog that surrounded me that morning, I realized all at once my suffering was self-made – and in more ways than I care to divulge here.
One other thing I recognized - not right away but shortly after - was I didn’t understand what God was saying me over the course of my life, or even in specific moments. It was just like my deaf grandpa whose voice was unnaturally loud and unvarying. A three year old doesn’t quite understand the diversity of the human condition, that my deaf grandfather had no volume control. To me his voice was not only unfamiliar but incomprehensible. Was this similar to the way I “heard” God’s voice? Yes. I think it was! Had my grandfather lived longer, I would have learned to discern his voice and I would have grown to understand him. In my heart the similarities I found, between my relationship as a child with my grandfather and as an adult now with God, are very consoling and in some ways a little frightening. Should I put more effort into discerning God’s voice? I think I must.
In his silent world grandpa easily endured my shrieks and cantankerous complaints. In his world of diminished senses he possessed the perception of a prophet. He seemed to know within himself time was short, and with that interior knowledge he showered me with an excess of love in a way that was universally easy to understand. He never cared about my protests, in fact it was as if they did not exist. I think he knew I would remember the love he freely showered upon me, and in this remembrance, know without any doubt that he loved me deeply. I likewise in my own diminished senses, can see a glimmer of the love God has for me and understand it better in human terms. And that I can begin to accept I am precious and unrepeatable…even if a wee bit ill-tempered.
We creatures live in the temporal world and in searching a solution to spiritual distress might recall that God lives outside of time. We might find God’s love for us expressed all along the path of our life. He answered mine within the context of my family; in the memory of a grandfather’s gratuitous love, in the purity of childhood innocence and ignorance. As children of God let us seek Him where He may be found; here and now; in moments to come; in the expanse of the past.
Written by Hannah de Lisser
Other Blogs by Secular Discalced Carmelites:
- Bethany Hang Out – a blog by Shawn Chapman, OCDS. Shawn is a member of the Austin community of Secular Discalced Carmelites. She also writes regularly for ATX Catholic online.
- Elizabeth Explores Writing – a blog by Elizabeth Ogilvie, OCDS. Elizabeth is a Secular Discalced Carmelite of the U.S. Central Province.
- Gray Rising – a blog by Tim Bete, OCDS. Tim is a member of the community of the Secular Discalced Carmelites in Dayton, OH.
- Hearth Cake and a Jug of Water – Mary Bellman, a member of the Dallas OCDS community, sends out a daily Carmelite quotation by e-mail. Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be added on her mailing list and receive these Carmelite quotations.
- Illumina, Domine – a blog by Pat Enk, a Secular Discalced Carmelite of the U.S. Central Province.