“Our reaching out is never in vain.”
I spent four months writing, “My Sonnet’s Soul” in 2001. Compelled by a madness I later came to understand as bi-polar disorder mixed heavy with what most writers consider to be the innate insanity of writing to be sane, I truly believed God was telling me to write the story of my family.
Since as far back I can remember, which on some days is just minutes ago, I’d heard pieces of stories so cobwebbed that I became stuck in the majesty of their mysteries. I’d never met my blood Grandmother. No one would ever speak of her. So, in 2001 I became determined not only to find her, but to create a half non-fiction account of the journey. A frightening journey into the shaded truths I’d been privy too, and the dark recesses of my own imagination.
I then, four months later, got on a plane and took thirty copies of the book to our family reunion. The book was met with shattering glass and rebuking. I came home, defeated, lost – shaken; and put the original copy in an old folder inside my purple crate. I did not read it again until today.
Compiling these chapters of this book now, I shuffle through old folders and papers, sitting cross legged on the floor of my office. An old Manila envelope appears, unopened. It is stamped 2001, and it is from my Grandfather’s wife, his second – not my blood Grandmother.
I open it carefully and wonder how I’d never seen it, or why I’d kept it without knowing. Beautifully elegant handwriting crosses a blank, thinned page of paper …
“… Dear Courtney, these poems were written by your great grandmother, your father’s blood Grandmother. Some were written when she was dying from tuberculosis. You can see, she trusted in the Lord. I know you will treasure them, as I have. God Bless you and all your family, and bring you many blessings in your writing endeavors.”
This is the Envelope I discovered after 10 years.
My heart literally skips several beats, and I cannot bring myself to turn the page. The room spins, and I know without doubt, what I hold in my hands are relics of my heritage. Pieces of me I never knew. I’ve just opened up the soul of who I am.
Instead of reading any of the poetry, I rush to call my father and breathless, I tell him over the phone what I have discovered. I ask him, “Who was she? How have I not ever heard of her before?”
The phone is quiet against my ear, I listen barely to my father catch his breath when finally, “Thank God they still exist. I’d always wondered what had happened to them.”
I listen then, to the telling of a story that as it’s being told … is so familiar to my spirit that I weep openly. Today, I met my Great – Grandmother. My spirit soared and grieved as only a spirit can, connecting to the blood tie of a woman who, as she met her death cradling her two young son’s, had, as my Great Grandfather wrote in his Preface to her collection, “…a profound religion, a true philosophy, and a beauty of soul which is indeed the supreme attainment of life.”
As my father painted her image and her heart, “Divine, she was absolutely divine,” I could not help but wonder how it was that these ageless poems had found their way to me, her Great-Grand Daughter, the very year I’d written “My Sonnet’s Soul,” a book making no mention of her, but only now made known, eleven years later, the year I finally decide to write again.
My father asks me to consider that these poems are a legacy not to be taken lightly, and a relic not to be cast out for just anyone. He is asking me to keep them, to treasure the lessons my Great Grandmother needs me to hear and allow this enlightenment only to myself. “Don’t read these, Courtney, to just anyone. Be careful. Few people will be able to understand the divinity of those words. You’ve been given a gift, one I am incredibly jealous of – but that is my own truth to attempt to hear, if I can. One day, you will know when the time is right, to whom you pass on this – your very heritage, this eternal existence of the immortality of soul.”
Later, after I am able to stop crying, I turn the page. And for the first time, I sit in the glorious presence of my divine Great Grandmother, as she holds me in her spirit. I am but the eternal life force of a strong soul who lived so truthfully she had the power to give me advice I so desperately needed, eighty years after she left this realm.
“It’s Not In Vain”
By, my Great Grandmother
“There is in man, a longing, a longing akin to pain.
As the dew drops of morning, are akin to mist and rain.
A longing, a reaching out, toward life’s great mysteries.
Sometimes in hope, sometimes in doubt,
But ever, ever, reaching out.
This it must ever be, life holds for each,
And in our longing, and in our pain
Our reaching out is not in vain.”
I read this with shivers, and goose pimples running up and down my spine – taken with the breathtaking perfection of her talented prose, and knowing those words from somewhere. This, her telling, her exposed truth, was so familiar to me I begin laughing, there, on the floor of my office; tears of comfort. Great truths have layers of enlightenment.
The only poem I wrote inside of “My Sonnet’s Soul,” …
If you listen closely to the voices as they speak,
You will hear the words become a familiar sound.
The buzzing of a hive,
The sweetness of the comb.
The sweat and labor of the Keeper – the lives kept,
The mystery of the Reacher.
Yes, the sun is hot,
And yes, the work is hard.
But the crop comes in and what glory it is to see,
The work was not done in vain.
These poems, these very threads of my existence, speak wisely and eternally words that will forever advise my renewed determination towards who I truly am. Thank you, Great Grandmother … thank you. Your spirit is loud and clear, just as I begin to neatly and carefully place your poetry back into the envelope I notice the date stamped onto the front, worn from the years it reads, “December 5th, 2001.” Today is December 5th … 2012. Our Reaching Out truly, is never in vain. Even if that is from the eternity of soul, in a manilla envelope, to a great-granddaughter she’d never met.
Be fruitful in your reaching. There is someone with open arms who needs you.