My grandma died on Wednesday in the morning as I drove to see her. There had never been a day where she was not alive in my thirty-six years of life, but today was Thursday, and it was my first day without her. All last night and today I have felt numb, like something was turned off inside of me, a switch that made me alive. As I made my way to Tai Chi class this morning, everything felt slowed down, crawling at a snail’s pace, and I wondered how I would do at the funeral on Saturday. I had almost not gone to practice today, but decided it might help find my balance before I went to work.
Going into class, I was early, but my instructor and a fellow student were already in the room talking. Coming in, they warmly greeted me as I sat down in a chair. Putting away my keys and billfold, I tried my best to relax before the session began. As my eyes scanned around the brightly lit room, my mind was filled with my grandmother, the person I had been closest to while growing up. For the last five years she had lived in a nursing home, the person I knew slowly taken away by a series of strokes and old age. I had said goodbye to her last week, but she had been more alert and aware than she had ever been in the last two years. Staring out the large bay windows on the far side of the room, I wondered how I was going to process the death of the woman who had protected me as a child. At first my eyes looked through the windows without seeing, my thoughts clouding my vision, but slowly they cleared, and I was staring at the same tree I had looked at two weeks ago. The last time I looked at the tree, the branches had buds growing on them but had not yet flowered. Staring intently at the tree branch, my mind calmed and there was a moment of clarity. Now the blooms on the tree branch were open, just barely, and were beginning to flower.
I stared at the branch and thought of my grandmother, about living and dying, the changing of seasons, and the turning of the Wheel. The Dharma would continue to revolve as my life moved forward. But for a moment in time, I was aware of what was happening in front of me, and I knew I would overcome the grief of my grandmother’s passing. As I stood to begin practice, I knew I would keep looking out the window and think of my grandmother. . .
One move at a time.
This is an article in my Subdivision Journal series. I am trying to use mindfulness to observe nature in my neighborhood. Other articles in the series:
Carl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.
Photo by jacek913