My husband just returned from his annual fishing trip to Montana. This year he fell while trying to get his fishing boat on top of the car. There was a crowd of young men who watched it happen and a few came over to make sure that he was alright. Life holds moments of embarrassment. He thanked them and said he was okay but needed to stay put on the ground a bit longer.
Upon his return home there were a few times that I was needed to help him off the sofa. I’ve gotten good at this since his shoulder replacement this year and know exactly how to position my legs and reach for his arm. Our ability to help another person up is not only relegated to the body but equally true for the heart. It made me see how important lifting another person is and how often we need to use our voice in the very same “assist.”
This week my daughter and my son’s families are staying with us. Ten people living together and playing together is no one’s normal. It is exhilarating, intense, and sometimes exhausting. We were packed for a beach outing, and even though everyone had waited hours for this beach time to finally happen, one tenderhearted six-year-old crumpled to the floor in tears. It wasn’t the right call to pick her up and get her into the car. It was instantly clear to me that this situation called for the delicate words of a grandmother to send everyone on their way and be the voice that came alongside her while she lay crumpled on the floor.
In that moment I knew in my heart that going to the beach with a crowd was not at all what I wanted either! (How dare a grandmother confess this.) So, I rested alongside her and then whispered, “Do you want to go outside together?” As I waited for a response, I said how I longed to be with her and her alone. The words wafted in the air like the faint August breeze outside. Slowly and quietly Grace sat up. It was clear that my words were no “get out of jail card” that wrapped up a victory of saving the afternoon. We were still in treacherous territory where a “foot miscalculated on a running board” might add peril like what had happened to Dan.
We sat on the hallway floor together, breathing, assessing the lost beach play while silently looking at each other. I noticed her sad eyes. My heart seemed to beat loudly as I waited. I breathed in and out slowly, hoping to calm her body as well as mine. As I brushed her dark, long hair behind her ear, I looked deeply into her beautiful eyes. The house was quiet, as if it was breathing too. All was still. We were at a crossroads, and I wondered, “Had a grandparent ever sat quietly with me when I had been upset and asked if we could go outside and play together?”
We spend a lifetime speaking words. Listening to words. Having our words be scrutinized with adverse meanings to what we said and how we said them. We use our breath and our brains to get our way or save a moment that took an upside-down turn unexpectedly.
If lifting a person is precarious and requires thought to extend the right arm of strength, how much more can “lifting our voice” be for good or for ill?
Unfortunately, too many past words of my parents and family stay lodged in dark crevices and come lurching out in inopportune times. Why is it that spoken words tumble out falling on others like playing freeze tag on a summer night?
“Grace, I love you. I am so happy we are here together. Just you and me. It’s what my heart has longed for since you arrived from California. I didn’t know how much I needed this time with you and you alone! I am so happy we are together and alone. Do you want to jump together on the trampoline?”
A faint smile and a giggle tumbled out of our mouths, and we ran out the door, climbed the white plastic steps to the black trampoline, and jumped holding hands. It wasn’t elegant. I’m not one to go outside and jump for the sake of jumping. But we jumped and laughed until we couldn’t jump anymore.
Eventually, Grace asked, “Mia, will you read books to me on the porch swing?” I got a book with the title, Amanda, and lifted Grace’s little body onto my lap with the strength and tenderness I had offered my beleaguered husband that morning. Lifting another is allowing the great Other to lift us to unimagined goodness.
Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of 44 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting, and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living! b