Monday, August 10, 2015

Consider the Chair

"The chair of Esther - be amazed!"

“Grandfather, my mother says that the time has come and that I must give away some of the things that I once treasured. But why? I understand that some of the things I earlier enjoyed have come to mean less to me but does that mean that I must give them to others who will not appreciate them as I have or even worse, deposit them alongside mere rubbish?”
“Everything must be thrown out, one day. The dump is our inheritance.”

“But what of holy things? Must they also end up as common garbage?”

“Little one, there is nothing common, only degrees of the sacred. All that is created, all that is imagined -such as these precious thoughts we have that flit and flutter within -anything that is dreamed and imagined and realized must one day perish, must finally be consumed by time and chance, by life and death.”
“But you’ve spoken before about the memory of love, Grandfather, and how that cannot truly be lost."

“That is true. The exuberance of youth, the passion of oneness, the slipping of childhood innocence on the brink of its awakening into a deeper innocence, the sweetness of young love’s embrace are thought to be eternal in the heavens and yet even a candle flame neglected will burn out; all things become as they once were, things seen and unseen must decline, erode and finally, be no more.”
“My dear father’s father, you speak in parables and mysteries! What about goodness and all things pure –what of these noble truths? Must they, too, come to nothing?”

“Let me tell you a story.”
There once was a woman who was all alone. She had no family but in her old age she adopted an abandoned child who was unwanted, sick and certain to die young. She spared no expense and made room for him and fed him and loved him. He got a little better and, though frail, lived into his teenage years. He read a lot and taught himself a considerable amount and so it happened that this child became the teacher to his grandmother, who was really more like a mother to him (he called her ‘Mammy-dear’). When he was feeling okay she would help him get comfortable in his favorite chair and from there this young prince would hold forth his court, filling his days with laughter among a growing audience of friends and admirers who had heard of his wisdom, funny stories and joyful spirit. Some of them had even come from far and wide to enjoy his great adventures and they were never disappointed as he mesmerized them with riddles, amazing facts and tall tales about galaxies and gadgets, wizards and other wonders.
And though the chair was known jokingly as his throne, others sometimes sat in it, typically when he was too tired to move from his bed. But he was as generous with his chair as he was with his time, possessed as he was with a rare majesty, a lifted beauty and expansive spirit. The chair had long supported his broken frame, this bent and bruised vessel of grace- and it was often declared by the visitors that “This chair and its occupant would end up alive forevermore!" "Surely” his many friends assured her, “his bright light would never burn out.”
One day though, her beloved grandson did die –the doctors could do no more- and then he was gone. And, although the chair had become less than comfortable by then, for a while she took to sleeping in it and for many years she could not bring herself to dispose of it for the chair had come to represent her child, a symbol of better days.
Eventually though, she decided it was time for the chair to find a new home. Some suggested she put it on the curb or even in the trash but she could not bring herself to do that. She asked around. “Certainly an old friend would want to have it, repair it?” she concluded. But there were no takers so she did finally put it on the curb and waited to see if someone would stop and collect it, filled as it was with all those memories and meaning. Cars did stop, and there was much poking and prodding. Some even sat in it but as it was no longer an attractive piece, there were no takers.
After seven full days, the weekly garbage pick-up day arrived and the hulking, grey truck arrived on the street. She said goodbye to the chair, sitting in it one more time in an attempt to sweep up in her arms all that had been at rest there, once upon a time. Then, she got up, returned to the house and looked away from the window for she had decided beforehand not to see it callously crushed by the huge truck press that was capable of reducing any discarded item to near dust. But she could not turn away for long. Instead, one last look through the darkened screen! Two garbage collectors were there now and one of them in front of the chair –“what?” she whispered, “he’s removing his glove and is now kissing his still-dirtied hand and he’s reaching down to touch the chair, his hand resting in blessing for that chair!” “My grandson’s chair!” and she wanted thank him for such tenderness, but her voice fell silent amidst the tears… then the shrill voice of the other collector who began teasing his coworker for “such non-sense; it’s just a stupid, junky old chair” he growled as together they grabbed the armrests to take up the chair for its final flight.  
Before that moment she had thought of the chair as the place from which her son gave life –but now she saw that, to him, it was a holy space he had mainly reserved for others. To this grandmother, it was her son who gave so magnificently, buried though he often was deep in the warmth of the many blankets she had provided, due to the growing coldness within. She understood now that the true source of her joy and love was given by him in his invitation to sit, with his open and unconditional welcome. “The chair was really for me” she marveled to herself that day, “healthy though I was, I was the one in need of healing and he saved that space for me, his throne for me.”
"Grandfather, that garbage guy was kind to do that and the grandma seemed to be very wise, too."

“My dear, I think you’re right! All things –and people- will eventually wear out and yet, somehow, in some way, we must appreciate, admire, trust, and sometimes, yes, be swept off our feet by some things and by some people, of course. It is in our nature to want and to need that kind of connection. Rare is the person who can see it; rarer still the one who values such insight. Transcendence is part of what it means to be human -built into the furniture, as it were. Never forget the deed of the ungloved garbage collector who knew enough to see the sacred thing before him, something he knew in his heart to be true, and, I think, eternal.”

“Oh, grandfather, you are much too serious! Next time I will ask only about easy things, about frivolous matters!”

"And then she was gone..."

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