Mother’s Day Special: A Card From Margaret
Just over two years ago, a little girl received a birthday card in the mail from her step-great-grandmother, Margaret.
This wasn’t usual, as Margaret reliably sent birthday cards each and every year to her… and to each and every one of Margaret’s other step-great-grandchildren… and step-grandchildren… and nieces… and nephews.. and various other relatives and friends.
What was unusual was that by the time the birthday card had arrived in the mail, Margaret had passed away.
Margaret wrote and mailed the card a few days before taking her last breath. It was one last act of loving kindness and devotion sent by Margaret out to the world — like a droplet of water sending ripples outwards into a pond — before she quietly slipped under.
There are so many lessons that I’ve learned from Margaret, so much that I’ve wanted to write about her, so much that I didn’t get to say to her, my beloved third grandmother… a woman who had no biological children, but who was nonetheless a superb mother and caregiver to so many of us.
Today on this Mother’s Day, I’d like to articulate in written words my unspoken depths of appreciation:
Margaret taught me that people can be truly kind. She taught me the deep sense of joy and delight in making the lives of others just a little bit easier, healthier and happier, even (as especially) in the face of great adversity.
As a highly accomplished emergency room nurse, Margaret understood what it was to work under pressure… not just the pressures of extreme circumstances, but also the pressures of extreme personalities. Throughout her life, she worked with and for some extremely difficult, arrogant and unhelpful personalities… and in the face of all that was bad in the world, she maintained a positive disposition. Her joy was seeing other people made happier, or at least more comfortable.
There are those who see acts of kindness as a sort of transaction.. or worse, as something to disdain or distrust. Margaret didn’t seem to get discouraged by such people. She just enjoyed doing what she did. Margaret was tough because she could deal with adversity and yet not become jaded by it.
Margaret faced into some big challenges, like caring for my grandfather daily in the last years of his life. She also did lots of little things that added up. When I think about my childhood and the people who shaped my personality, Margaret is often there in my mind’s eye, smiling and laughing, cutting up pieces of fruit for me and my brothers to munch on, baking us cookies, sewing on fresh name tags on our rapid cascade of hand-me-down clothes, and yes, sending out those birthday cards, like clockwork, well before Facebook turned birthday greetings into a pro forma act.
From time to time, I notice myself — or other people — doing an act of kindness with that same level of pure and simple joy that Margaret had.
When I notice that, I smile and think of ripples in a pond.
Thank you, Margaret.