What matters most

My family came over for Sunday Supper the other night, a tradition started years ago when I was small and we’d all pile in the car and drive over to my Grandma’s house.

Family Supper circa 1984

 

Some things have changed over the years, most notably that the meals are no longer held at Grandma’s house, but mine.

And also that the hearty meat- and- vegetables- and- potatoes- and apple pie types of meals Grandma would always cook for Sunday Supper have been replaced by either takeout or a potluck where everyone contributes something.

I find myself yearning to be able to cook  big meals like she did, but standing long enough at the stove to cook an elaborate meal for a large group is an ability I lost 16 months ago, along with so many other things I once saw as key to a good life, like being able to walk and drive.

It isn’t easy, but this situation is teaching me to cherish and celebrate what matters most in life.

With these Sunday Suppers, what matters most is not the elaborateness (or lack thereof)  of the food we eat, but that we are amongst some of the people we most love in all the world.

After supper had ended this past Sunday night, we finished up the evening with a little walk and roll down the street.  Our family parade was made up of two of us rolling along in wheelchairs, one rolling on a longboard and the rest walking along on foot. While I wish so badly that I could have been one of the walkers, what mattered most was being outside in the early spring evening, feeling the sun’s warmth as she gently kissed our cheeks.

I think Grandma, aged 101, had the biggest smile of all as she sailed down the sidewalk (pushed carefully by Eric) with the evening sun on her face. It made all of us smile to see her so happy.

I strongly believe that one of the things that matters most is fully living the gift of life God has granted each of us.  However, between my physical disabilities and the other special needs some in my family live with,  sometimes this feels as hard as trying to swim against a deep current.

I’m slowly discovering that a good life can be built when one deliberately seeks out creative ways to approach the challenges, with the goal of living life as much as possible in the face of disability and struggle.

It’s an approach my family, in particular my parents and my aunt, have taken with my Grandmother. Quite frail, she lives in a nursing home for people with severe dementia and high physical needs.  On the surface, it might not make sense to take her out on grand little adventures.  None of the other residents, many in a physically healthier state than her, have left the building in months.

However, the smile on her face when she shares a Sunday Supper with us as she has done for decades reminds us that being together is truly what matters most.  She is so very fragile, and yet that is all the more reason to sprinkle her life with fun little trips out of the nursing home.  Even though she doesn’t remember these outings five minutes after they end, in the moment while she is doing them she has a blast. And spending time loving on her is a way to honour her for the love she showered on all of us all our lives.

I believe it is good for my kids to be around someone whose spirit has accumulated the wisdom that comes from a life that has spanned everything from the horse-and-wagon days to the computer age. Even if she is not able to communicate that wisdom to them verbally, her wisdom shines from the gentleness of her spirit; the easy joy in her smile;  the softness of her wrinkled hands.
To me, she is a great teacher, probably the most impactful one I’ll ever meet in all my life.
 She and I never really had big conversations over the years where we sat down and discussed the meaning of life or other important topics. Instead, she taught me about what matters most through the tenderness of her hugs, her delight in the small things, and the deliciousness of the soups and cookies she was always baking whenever I would go to her home (which was multiple times per week for all the years of my childhood).
Eric and Grandma sailing through an early spring evening.

Now, in her fragile state, she teaches me still about what matters most. Not so much through her actions anymore: there are no more home baked cookies from her stove, no more slightly lopsided sweaters knitted with the greatest of love.

However, what matters most remains in plenty: her love for her family and her mischevious and spunky personality.
Seeing her live with joy and contentedness even in the face of her challenges encourages me in the face of my own struggles to not just persevere, but to smile deeply and to find creative ways to have fun and live well.
Beautiful Samantha

It inspires me with my kids to try to make my focus on their abilities and all the things they can do.   And to keep striving for solutions so they can participate as fully as possible in life’s joys and activities.

And it reminds me that for all of us, our abilities or disabilities are but just a fraction of who we are as unique individuals with things to contribute and with deep, loving connections to establish with those around us.
And so, I gather my family close, draw my wheelchair close to grandma’s, and gently squeeze her wrinkled hand in mine.  And then we all walk and roll off into the evening sun, cherishing together what matters most.
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4 Replies to “What matters most”

  1. Great post Jenna. You truly live out “what matters most”. You cherish your grandma and see the wisdom she has in her own special way. It’s a beautiful family testimony!

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