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  • Martha Engeman

Embracing the Mystery

My Grandmother died 10 years ago this month at the ripe old age of 102½ while having a head massage and eating a coffee ice cream cone. She had to be really relaxed to finally let go, because she never really expressed any interest in dying. To commemorate the 10 year anniversary, my Mom is planning a luncheon with my Grandmother’s caregivers and is going to serve some of her favorite foods at the end of her life including pasta, grits, coffee ice cream and chocolates–because when you live to 102 ½, vegetables are entirely optional.

My Grandmother was a small woman with a big spirit and commanding presence. She also was a stickler for good grammar and etiquette. I will never forget receiving a letter I had sent her with my grammar corrected. As she entered her final years though, she softened. One of my favorite memories was watching her with a big box of chocolates, taking a bite out of one, deciding that wasn’t the one for her, and leaving the rest of it as she went on to taste the others. In the end, there were several half eaten chocolates in the box. The younger version of my Grandmother would have been horrified. l thought it was a brilliant strategy–why eat a chocolate that wasn’t exactly what you wanted?

Lately, I have been pondering hidden gems, like the mystery filling in my Grandmother’s chocolates and what my unborn grandchild will be like. Recently, I was weeding my garden beds in preparation for planting and pulled up five carrots from last season–truly hidden gems.

I am also contemplating how much of our lives really is a mystery. We may have an intention and start on a path, but the process of getting from where we are now to where we want to be is rarely a straight line. I am reminded of my experiences sailing and how you have to tack with the wind to move toward where you want to go. The wind may take you on one diagonal, and then another, easing you forward but with few straight lines along the way. As one of my yoga teachers said when I was in Yoga Teacher Training, “Planning is priceless, plans are useless.” It’s important to put in effort and have an intention about where we want to go and what we want to do, but in the moment, things shift and new possibilities we hadn't considered open up.

If I could, I would bring my Grandmother back to share a cup of tea, catch up on life, and savor some chocolates. I would ask her more about her life and her experience of two world wars. I would let her know how much we love her and what a beautiful and growing family she left behind. But most of all, I would ask her what it was like to leave this life while eating a coffee ice cream and having a head massage, because that sounds like a lovely way to go.


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