Bedside tables and lessons learned…

by | 3rd November, 2013 | being present, thoughts on life

Very early in our relationship John and I decided to visit his grandmother who was living in a  nursing home on the Gold Coast, Queensland. John had told me about her life – working hard on a large farm beside her husband, raising three children and remaining stoic throughout her time as an  farmer’s wife. He described to me their grand farm house and property and how it was eventually lost due to misfortune over the years, and her recovery through this period as she was forced to leave the land. She had lived a full, exciting and turbulent life and her engaging personality was reflected in the delight she had about our visit. One thing had struck us both during this visit… for all her 80+ years here on earth, the only true possession remaining from her life was her bedside table, and that was enough. Sure, she had all the current furniture that was typical for a nursing home, but from her own personal possessions,all she had was her bedside table and some trinkets. She was a happy lady – very happy.

Sixteen years later that visit still serves as a reminder…life isn’t about what possessions you own, your status in society, the car you drive or the suburb you live in. Life is simply about being present, valuing the moment and the people in it. I’m willing to bet that every single person reading this blog today already knows this on some level. Why then is it so easy to forget on a daily basis?

If I kept this learning top of mind I wouldn’t have moments of stress when my bank account dips; concerns about what others may think of me; longings for the latest gadgets; or stress during tough business times. At the end of my days, none of these things will matter. 

This was my wonderful dad. He passed away last year, and spent the last few years of his life in a nursing home because he was too immobile for mum to continue to care for him in the family home. As hard as it was to see dad in a nursing home, it also provided some of the best times I spent with him because he was so present to me.

dad 2During my visits, all we had was him and me. There were no “things” to distract us. No concerns about the state of the world; no worries about missing deadlines; no questions about what shirt to wear. He didn’t care about any of that, he just remained present to me. Many times he wasn’t even engaged in conversation with me, there was simply a sense that we shared the moment together, and I loved it. It took dad eighty years to find peace in stillness, and how fortunate was I to bear witness to that and learn the lesson much earlier in my life.

When I remove all the needless inner chatter and don’t focus on “things” in my life (and I do this genuinely – not because I think I should!), I become more present to the people around me and the connection is more fulfilling for both of us. This can include my interaction with the checkout person at the supermarket, the person I sit beside at the theatre, an employee, my sons or an old friend. As my parent, this was dad’s greatest gift to me and I am sure he would want me to remember this every day I am part of this wonderful life. I’m trying dad…