February 12, 2015


Yesterday may or may not have been the last time I’ll see one of my grandmothers.

Alice is 92 + gorgeous. She is my mom’s stepmother. My mom is riding in the ambulance with her today as she gets transported to New Mexico, where Alice’s daughter lives – and where her new home will be.

The reality is that everyone we see … it may be the last time we see them. The fabric of life is much more fragile than we think. But when someone is 92 years old and moving to another state, it somehow makes the impermanence of life more tangible.

It filled me with joy to see Alice. Even though she’s been through a lot in the last few months, her eyes are crystal clear, her mind is sharp as a tack and she makes jokes right and left, making everyone belly laugh.

She’s curled up in a little ball in the bed, looking slightly like a little girl with white hair. She said to me laughing at herself, “Every day I get lazier and lazier. I don’t feel like walking. I don’t feel like getting up, sitting up, eating up.” The bed just feels more and more comfortable I suppose.

I watched my mom and how she interacts with Alice. She’s such an incredible caregiver – she’s been driving down from northern Arizona every week for the last three years to help care for Alice.

When Alice needed help with groceries, when she fell, when she had intestinal surgery, when she broke her tailbone, my mom was there for support. Even when my mom had eye surgery and had to sleep every night on a massage table with her face down the whole night, she’d place the table next to Alice’s bed, in case she needed to help her to the bathroom at night.

My mom is very in tune and great with details, like figuring out how small to cut the pain pills so that Alice wouldn’t go too long with pain after she broke some bones, but also to minimize addiction or nodding off in the middle of the day. She makes sure the nurses and doctors do what they say they’re going to do and is the best advocate.

I love that about my mom. But what I love even more is her eyes. Her eyes heal. When she smiles and feels a lot of affection for someone, a wave of love comes pouring out of her eyes. She beams light from her eyes and is totally 100% present with them. That’s a rare ability these days – to be present.

And I bet my mom has no idea that she’s doing that, or that her whole face lights up and changes shape and softens into this divine goddess that gets triggered when she’s around small children or the elderly. It’s just her way.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how we each have so many things that we appreciate about the people in our lives, but how rarely we tell others specifically what it is that we admire or love about them. Or what we see in them that’s different and beautiful.

I understand it, because sometimes saying things out loud takes away the poignancy or the ‘beyond words’ quality of life. Sometimes in the past I’ve regretted when I had spoken something that I felt so deeply, but the words came out like empty peanut shells when inside it felt like moonlight.

But what if we wrote these things down?

First of all, it’s a good practice just to think about the people around us and what aspects of them we love. Even if we never say anything about it to them, it magnifies our sense of gratitude that we have for the people in our lives  – and that’s such a positive thing. What we focus on, we get more of.

It could be your family, your friends, your colleagues and officemates, even your dog or cat. Or people you see every now and then.

Or people you have a difficult relationship with. If you can find things about them that you appreciate, it redirects your focus to what their strengths are.

Try it out and see how you feel. {It makes me feel so deeply appreciative of the complex beings that surround me and fill up my life with light. It makes me feel lucky.}

Write down the names of people in your life and what you love most about them. Or what you’re grateful to them for. You can write it in a notebook or in your phone notes.

What I love about … (fill in the blank with their name)

If you want to keep it for yourself, keep it. And if you want to share it with them, give them the little love note.

Love + flower petals,

katie hess flower alchemist