"There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever, [some] for better
Some have gone and some remain..."
There are people and places that bring out the best in us. And there are moments and events that provide the setting for this very best self to shine. And then there are times when an unexpected moment between two people provides the opportunity for something rare and exquisite to occur.
Yesterday afternoon I was reminded of two such instances among many.
While preparing dinner for our family – a simple quiche and a fresh grapefruit, raspberry and pear salad – I was stopped in my tracks by two memories. Each taught me something about unexpected, and simple, gifts.
The first experience happened about 16 years ago. A dear friend who was my spiritual mentor and teacher had been through, what I assumed was, a very difficult time. I called him to schedule an appointment that I hoped would allow me to show my support and express my gratitude for all he had taught me. I arrived at his home late one afternoon expecting that we would go to his office for our visit and was sweetly surprised when he led me to their kitchen. It was obvious that he was in the middle of preparing he and his wife a modest dinner of soup and fruit salad. As we stood there talking he took the time to teach me how to section a grapefruit without wasting any of the fruit. I was so moved by the precision and grace he expressed as he parted each segment of succulent pink fruit from the surrounding membrane. I was struck by how he never missed a beat…answering the phone, responding to my questions, stirring the soup, pausing to pray, setting the dinner table he had generously invited me to share with them. There was a sure peace, a confident poise, a humble grace in his movements and his sense of place. It was a delight to see that his "office" had changed from an elegant suite high above the city, to a corner of their kitchen counter where a small easel, canvas, and paints sat next to his phone and a set of the books he turned to for inspiration and guidance in his busy healing practice. Oil painting had taken the place of approving budgets and signing correspondence between calls from patients…and it was clear he had never lost his rhythm in keeping focused on the things most essential…as Mary Baker Eddy encourages in Pulpit and Press:
"You have simply to preserve a scientific,
positive sense of unity with your divine source,
and daily demonstrate this."
Standing there at the kitchen sink watching this man who was, and is, a spiritual giant in my life gently sectioning grapefruit as he shared what had excited him about some fresh inspiration he had gained through his Bible study that day…I was humbled by his purity and grace. I still am. Everytime I cut grapefruit I think of that afternoon in his kitchen classroom and the fruit feels sacred in my hands. "...Though I know I'll never lose affection Gratefully,
The other instance also happened nearly twenty years ago. A young woman had come to stay with us while she recorded some original compositions in our recording studio.
We were all living quite modestly in those days…our guest included. Our meals were always simple and there were very few "treats". One afternoon our guest asked if she could prepare the evening's meal. I was happy to have her go through the cupboard to find the ingredients she might use. By dinnertime a lovely aroma was filling our home. We arrived in the kitchen for dinner to find a simple quiche and a beautifully set table with wildflowers and candles in jelly jars.
It was a wonderful meal. The quiche was delicious. We sat for hours talking and laughing long after the candles had flickered out. When our guest left later that month I found the recipe for the quiche on the kitchen counter. I have used that recipe a hundred times since then. I have it memorized, but still take out the recipe card written in our guest's careful script each time. That quiche recipe and the memory of that simple meal has lived on long after chocolates, flowers, or a dinner "out" might have. That well-worn recipe card is a reminder to me that sometimes the gifts that leave the biggest wake are the ones that we pour the most of ourselves into.
Last night as we sat at the kitchen table eating our dinner I shared these stories with my family. The girls said, "cool", as they finished their last bites of quiche, asked to be excused, and ran off to start their homework. My husband was attentive and thoughtful. I couldn't help but wonder if I have done enough to honor the lessons these gifts (and their givers) have taught me. Today I will do better…I hope.
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love them all..."
"...Though I know I'll never lose affection