Friday, September 7, 2012

Words That Move Me...(Part 3)

Snapshots . . . 

 A four-year-old cherub gives you three juicy kisses on your cheek while you tell her a "real story" at bedtime. When you go to leave, she tells you her version of a "real story" while stroking your hair, placing a strand now and then behind your ear.

A sweet, green, little parrotlet chooses to fly across the room to your shoulder. You feel her nestle in your loose, long hair as you sit at the piano, giving comfort and support during your wrestle to memorize a new sonata.

A son who usually is too shy to show love to his mama, volunteers to break away from the family group to go with you while you exchange an item. He surprises you by taking your hand in his, holding it the entire time you walk through the mall.

Victor Hugo

All these and other recent tastes of "divine love," have brought a growing feeling I thought was indescribable until I read Victor Hugo's words for it in Les Miserables recently:
The heart, that dark celestial flower, bursts into a mysterious bloom . . . You are caressed through the soul. You see nothing, but you feel yourself adored.
(Book Five, Chapter IV, P.167)

Once again, I felt gratitude for an author's ability to express what I did not know how to.  That "mysterious bloom" is such a perfect phrase for it.  Like you're tapping into a stream of divinity. Like pure Light is flooding inside that "dark celestial flower" of your heart.

I expected a good story when I committed to read Les Miserables with a dear friend who I often enjoy sharing good books with, but I didn't expect I'd be underlining, rereading and pondering so many passages.  (Not all the pondering has been in agreement with the author, but I had better stick to my topic.)

The past week, I have found myself reading over and over the two pages where the above quote is found. As I pondered the paragraphs, a memory put away long ago resurfaced and brought a familiar regret. 
As I pondered and reread more, I came to find some peace.

The memory is of my great-grandpa, Ras, who I've mentioned before in a recent post.  He lived with us from the time I was ten, to thirteen.  Both of my grandpa's died before I was five, so I don't remember either one very much, but I do have many memories of Ras: How he took care of our whole family at his home for days when we all came down with the flu; how he let me roller skate in his pristine garage; how he'd call me "Katie-girl"; the fake grass on his patio where we ate his traditional Sunday, char-grilled burgers; pretending I was Snow White under his coffee table and regretting that the decorative flower protrusion at the center of the base of the table made it so uncomfortable to lay down under the glass top - much less to lie still enough to be convincingly "dead" while other "dwarfs" mourned over you.  Now, my kids find creative uses for this same table in our living room.

Ras holding me.
 30 shades of makeup from Ras at Christmas 
(age 5 haha)

Had to prove I did have some hair as a child :)
It was Ras' son who was killed while riding around his neighborhood, unwinding on his motorcycle one weekend. A driver in a truck didn't notice a stop sign, or the motorcyclist crossing the intersection.  The accident left my grandma a widow in her forties with two teenage girls.  Ras had lost all his children - one at birth and now a son so young.  He would also lose his wife to complications related to her asthma near the same time I would at age three be hospitalized for two weeks with the same condition. I think for that reason he doted on me a little.

Ras had a heart condition that gave him a distinct whistle in his breathing when he walked.  When he came to live with us near the end of his life, it was my job to make him a Carnation Instant Shake with a banana and then to set out his pills and make sure he took them. He would hear the blender going and would come out of his bedroom to the kitchen.  I would hear his whistling, rhythmic breath and start planning my strategy.  You see, every morning I would go to hand Ras his shake and he would want a hug.  For some reason that I can't figure out to this day, I tried every morning to avoid the hug and I was pretty good at it.  I'd dodge around the island in our kitchen just at the right time and place his shake on the dining room table. While he turned back around to go to the table I would say "Good Morning Ras!" and then head off in the other direction. 

The love Ras always gave me was so open, sweet and tender.  I never questioned it. But I took it for granted.  He was always smiling at me, making some silly face to get me to laugh, asking me if I'd made sure not to take "any wooden knickles," slipping me twenty dollar bills, and buying us pizza to eat while we watched the Lawrence Welk Show with him.  I still have a Pegasus snow globe he bought me on the last family trip we took together.  It plays the song, "You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings." To think of how I witheld those loving embraces from him...really, Kate?  What was your deal?!? I wish I would have had the maturity to think of Ras more and myself less. To set aside my awkwardness of youth.

I would have wanted him to feel cared for by me as the Bishop of Digne (in Les Miserable) did by his sister in his last years of life when his sight failed him:
To have continually at your side a woman, a girl, a sister... who is there because you need her, and because she cannot do without you, to know you are indispensable to someone necessary to you, to be able at all times to measure her affection by the degree of her presence that she gives be sure of the fidelity of one being in a total eclipse of the world...To have her wholly, from her devotion to her pity, never to be left alone, to have that sweet shyness as your aid, to lean on that unbending reed, to touch Providence with your hands and be able to grasp it in your arms; God made palpable.
I hope Ras saw through my behavior to my heart and knew how I was glad he never stopped trying to give me a hug.

It appears that pure, divine love is something you can only give or receive.  It's not something you can force or coerce.  It also appears that the saddest memories we will have are the times we withheld our love, or chose not to receive all the love another had to give us. I think of what I feel having denied those embraces from Ras and wonder what it will feel like when/if I find I similarly avoided my Father in Heaven's "embraces."

As Arthur Henry King said so well (and that I quoted before):
  For us...who believe in the oneness of the spirit and body in soul, there is one love, and it is divine love in all its forms.
Receive it from God and it is called Grace. Give it to God and it is called faith.   Give or receive it from others and it feels like...well...

"God made palpable."


  1. katie Girl - As I remember it, you were the last one on earth to give and receive a Ras hug. He caught you, didn't he. So beautiful, sweetheart.

  2. should give warning before you newly applied makeup is running down my face right now... Love you Kate and your inspiring, insightful words. xxx