Sunday, May 3, 2009

Gramma Bell

Image from interent

When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to take me to this tiny spot of green beside her house, where the wild violets grew, over the graves of the family pets. Only two things grew in that little shady patch of green, that lay between those two old buildings, on the main street, of that small mountain town. One was the wild violet, and the other, was the bleeding heart.

Image from Internet

The violets, she would tell me, grew there because flowers naturally grow on the graves of those we love. The bleeding hearts however, grew there to tell us a story. The story was of an unhappy princess who refused the love of a charming prince. Eventually the prince killed himself because the princess would not return his feelings. "Hearts bleed," my grandmother would say, "when we believe that only someone else can bring us happiness."

My grandmother was indeed a wise woman, she was also a heavy drinker and an angry woman. She was perfectly human, and in her humanness she was the most colorful, loving and raging woman I have ever met. To glorify her as a saint would be more than untrue, it would be unfair, for it was her ruckus laughter and big bellowing whiskey cheer that made the people love her. It was the way she sat on the piano bench and sang "Just a closer walk with thee" after a bottle of booze with her friend Dorris on a Sunday, that brought the house down. It was the upside down pineapple cake she made for us on our birthdays, and then force fed us, that was her charm.

Who am I to judge her way of coping? Who are any of us to judge anyone? I know there was a sad and secret story from her past. I know her heart was broken in a thousand places before my grandfather fell in love with her, and even the love they shared, it never fixed hear heart permanently. The love between she and my grandfather was strong and real, but it was more like the glue that holds a potted vase together after it has already been broken.

I know it was her brokenness that made her understand the sad wayfarer passing through. She had the kind of empathy that comes from experiencing the rugged and treacherous landscape of living. How many of those shoeless, womanless, penniless people, did she invite in off the street for a hot meal and a bath? How many broken hearts did she hold to her breast and with that big warm soft body, whisper that it would be alright?

When she died the whole town mourned. And I swear that little mountain town became a quieter place over night. "Just a closer walk with thee," has gone back to being sung by church congregations, and I am sure everyone would agree that it seems to have lost a certain kind of zestful deliverance.

I am not a believer in perfection. The more days that go by in my life, the more I am aware that our imperfections are what make us human. As far as I can tell it is the mud of who we are that is what really rounds us out, gives us depth and color and character, that makes us the passionate and perfectly imperfect beings that we are.

Joseph Cambell once said, "Be careful of the demons you cast out, lest they be the best parts of yourself."

And so, on this May morning, I am thinking of my Gramma Bell. Just a few days ago I noticed the bleeding hearts in my garden are in flower. Whenever I move into a new house I plant two bleeding hearts for my grandmother and every year when they offer there soft pink shapes to the world, I raise a glass to that wild and wonderful woman, who taught me so much about being myself.

~ To Gramma Bell
Isobel Elizabeth Kuraoka

Image from Interent


ArtSparker said...

Lovely post about your grandmother. I believe pansies are also called heart's ease. Hope your Spring garden is growing well.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Lovely tribute.
It is always a remarkable thing when brokenness leads to empathy. It doesn't always happen, but is wonderful when it does.

Anonymous said...

To visit your blog is like a breath of fresh air. Thanks for sharing this heart-touching story.

What your grandmother said, "Hearts bleed when we believe that only someone else can bring us happiness," is so true. I'd love to share this quote with my friends. I'll write "by Gramma Bell" and will include a link to this post.


Walk in the Woods said...

:) Blessings to Gramma Bell ... to her memory and her enduring spirit!

pinkrelish said...

Grandmother Bell truely was a soft hearted woman -- taken too soon. May her soul be touched by your beautiful writing Nao. I believe she is proud, proud, proud!