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Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

Grandma Heffron

Grandma Katherine Noonan Heffron used to come to our home in Sycamore Illinois for regular visits when I was a grade school age child. Grandma lived in Milwaukee Wisconsin with her daughter’s family, my Aunt Kate and Uncle Bernard.

Now I have white hair like my Grandma Heffron did back in the 1950s. I also must have some of the DNA in her legs because she had an advanced degree of some kind of disease in them. I am just recovering from leg vein operations that are going to tidy up my legs quite a bit before they advance into a much more problematic stage.  Today, I am sporting pretty hefty surgical support hose and pressure bandages all up and down my legs. The doctor tells me it will be about a two week healing process. And I think I am going to do splendidly.

The picture above shows our front porch where I sat often and did many creative activities. I colored and drew. I fantasized and played with paper dolls for hours at a time, reveling in their abundant wardrobe, whereas my own was merely adequate. Dad worked hard to provide for his family, much of the time highly over talented and gifted for what he was paid and for the good he accomplished for his companies. Our home and our life reflected a neatly and tightly arranged lifestyle centered on the basics of faith, cleanliness, kindness and help to others, and simple family fun activities in the backyards and area parks.

Inside that door was mom’s large, open dining room that was the centerpiece for her marvelous cooking and baking forays, especially in the holiday time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. On the far wall, was the tall, upright player piano some friends of theirs gave to them, and upon which I began my piano lessons. I have some of the Christmas sheet music on my piano today that I learned to play on that piano back then.

During Grandma’s visits, I vividly remember mom taking care of her disease-crusted legs, with open sores, and a very painful appearance to me as a small girl. I think grandma suffered with those legs. But later on a very holy woman’s work done by Mother Teresa really is the same image I have of mom when she attended grandma’s legs. She had so much compassion, softness and tenderness as she bathed and creamed and wrapped grandma’s legs that I still feel humble when I remember these scenes.

To me, this was all the more beautiful because Grandma Heffron would often take out her frustrations and fears on my mom. She would also make mom pay when she had had an encounter with her own son, mom’s husband, in which they frequently ended up ranting and raving at one another.  I wondered how mom took this ingratiating behavior on grandma’s part. Mom simply let it exhaust itself from grandma and just roll on out to diffuse the angst present. But she did it, again and again, over and over….and yet grandma’s legs got tended to and healed as much as possible through mom’s loving care.

The other thing I remember about grandma, is her pockets of her cotton house dress or apron always contained her blue crystal rosary. My Aunt Kate gave that rosary to me. My six year old granddaughter Amy loves sparkly things and she told me one day, “That is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”  She will make her First Holy Communion in two years. I have promised Amy, and she frequently reminds me not to forget, that  I will give that rosary to her when the time is right.

Below is a story of grandma and her rosary from my Napkinwriter blog in 2011.

Grandma's Rosary

My Grandmother’s Rosary  – written in May 2011

Sue’s Mother’s Day Tribute

“Excuse me,” the gentleman said as he got my attention. “I’m sure you did not mean to sell this.” In his hand, he was holding my grandmother’s crystal blue rosary, with a dull and tarnished silver cross with her name, Katherine Heffron, engraved on the back of it. My heart leapt in my chest. I was so grateful for his kindness in assuming that this prayer tool had much more than a monetary value attached to it. He returned it to me and I keep it on my home prayer table now, connecting me in faith to my elderly grandmother who passed many years ago.

We were in moving mode once again, leaving our country home for a condominium a little closer to Tom’s work. We were getting the final items arranged for the sale, sipping our wake-up coffee to warm us on the brisk Michigan  spring morning when this early-bird garage shopper arrived. He didn’t spend much time and quickly shopped the entire space, snatching up goods that were on his “hunt list”. Somehow, my grandmother’s rosary with her name inscribed on the crucifix, got into his catch. By returning it to me in the pre-sale hour, he saved it from the later rush traffic of the day and confusion which allowed me to keep this rosary in my family heritage.

The rosary belonged to my Irish grandmother who prayed her beads faithfully each day. Most of my memories of this grandma stem from her visits to us in the 1950s in our home in Sycamore, Illinois when I was in grade school. Grandma lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She lived with her daughter’s family, my father’s only sister, and I never knew my grandfather. He lived and died working the hard life of a lumberjack, cutting and hauling wood out of the northern Wisconsin and Minnesota forest lands.

My own father, at a young age, took over the provision role for his mother and sister. Early photos I have seen of those times in the late 1920s and early 1930s looked tough and gritty. I do not know the specifics, but I came to understand that my dad sacrificed in many personal ways to ensure that his mother and sister had their needs met. Most of that information came from my mother. I don’t remember dad talking about it very much.

What I do remember is that my father and his mother had a loving but very testy relationship. Volatile and explosive would be more accurate. Grandma was a pretty cryptic personality when she wasn’t influenced by a little whiskey swig, which she was known to steal on the fly on occasion.

She had her long, white-grey hair usually pulled back in a bun at the neck and she wore soft nylon or cotton shirt waist dresses with a belt around her full torso. She always seemed immaculately clean to me and smelled of soft, fragrant body powders and cream. My mother bathed and medicated her legs faithfully after which they were bandaged with elastic wrappings and stockings. Grandma always wore what I called “Eleanor Roosevelt” shoes, the same black heeled lace up oxfords the Sisters of Mercy wore at school.

My dad and his mother may have agreed on their religion but in almost any other discussion topic, they were starkly at odds – each with a stubborn Irishness that would  not let disagreement of opinion rest. So many of their discussions turned into broiler heated arguments, my dad’s voice raised to thunder level with my grandmother, shaking her head, making clucking sounds with her false teeth, and walking off in disgust and amazement at what she deemed as her son’s lack of healthy respect for her.

Needless to say, this was very disturbing to my brothers and me who could not admonish their father and who hated to see their grandmother upset. The fall-out continued later, too, as the pattern was that grandma would then be gruff or mean to my mother, who through no fault of her own, took the heat that was meant for grandma’s son.

Looking back on this now, my suspicion is that the place where grandma settled all this was with her beads. She would sit in her rocking chair, sometimes completing her own debating points in the absence of her son to no one in particular in the room. Then, within a short period of time, a soft quietness descended upon her and she would reach into her dress or apron pocket and draw out her beads. I often watched her and was grateful for the calm settling over her and the house as she sat alone and began her prayers.

I would sit in the room near her, perhaps reading a book or completing some homework. I could see and feel the tension and the upset in her give way, for this short period of time, to be replaced by the rhythm of the beads slipping through her fingers and the repetitive words of the prayers coming quietly from her lips.

Grandma shared my bedroom with me when she came for visits. One of my favorite times with grandma was when we were alone in my bedroom at night, just before  going to sleep. I would ask her about times when she was a girl like me and she talked softly and sweetly to me as she shared things I cannot remember today. It was a twilight time together for us and I got to know a grandma different from my daytime grandma that I loved and cared about deeply. We even laughed together. I think she liked that. My father might come to the door and admonish us, “You two, go to sleep”.

We would quiet down, and maybe whisper one more secret between us before turning over and settling into our twin bed covers and pillows. Then, before drifting off to sleep, I would once again hear the slipping of the beads and her whispering lips praying her nighttime rosary. Mary, Mother of God, called upon once again for all of our sakes.

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Photo by Christine Whitelaw – Australia 

In his writings, his Holiness, the Dalai Lama says, “…taking care of the planet is nothing special, nothing sacred, and nothing holy. It is something like taking care of our own house. We have no other planet or house except this one…we have no alternative, we have to take care of this home.”

“After all, the human being is a social animal,” I tell my friends.

“They have no need to study philosophy, these professional , complicated subjects,” he continues.  “By simply looking at these innocent animals, insects, ants, bees, etc, quite often I develop some kind of respect for them. How? Because they have no religion, no constitution, no police force, nothing. But they live in harmony through the natural law of existence or nature’s law or system”

“We human beings, what is wrong with us? he ponders. “We have such intelligence and human wisdom …so often used in a wrong way or direction. As a result, in a way, we are doing certain actions which essentially go against basic human nature….”

He calls love and compassion a universal religion…”if we look closely at human nature, affection is the key to a good heart. I think the mother is a symbol of compassion. Everyone has a seed of good heart.”

“Science and technology, together with human compassion with be constructive. Under the control of hatred, it will be destructive.”

The Dalai Lama began this topic by telling his audience that they may have come there that evening with some expectations, but that essentially “I’ve nothing to offer you.” He said he simply wanted to share some of his own experiences and views.

He said that from a certain viewpoint, religion is a bit of a luxury. “If you have religion, very good; even without religion you can survive and manage, but without human affection, we can’t survive.”

The Dalai Lama

There is a Global Coherence Initiative, which is a science-based, co-creative project to unite people in heart focused care and intention. It aims to facilitate the shift in global consciousness from instability and discord to balance, cooperation and increasing peace (www.glcoherence.org).

One of GCI’s roles is to provide education and technology for increasing heart coherence in individuals and teams.

Increasing heart coherence creates an alignment of body, emotions, mind and spirit that increases balance and effectiveness in individual groups and contributing to global coherence. This, in my opinion, is a technique needed to catch the attention and commitment of today’s leaders, powers of state and corporate and political structures. It is simple to learn, it may not be easy to effect the desire for change.

But just look at today’s world view –torn, fragmented by wars, unthinkable genicide of innocents, the hungry and homeless, the scarred Earth. Someone — somewhere– has to start doing something different from the way we’re doing it now. And I don’t think that boils down to the differing political parties.

I think it has more to do with the individual heart and mind consciousness that will rise up in bigger numbers than the individual alone and change whole systems in doing so — and there is no better place to start than in the heart.

We are studying and practicing the simple technique  of Heart Resonance in our Birth 2012 on-line course with Barbara Marx Hubbard.  The course also offers a glimpse of other styles of leadership, reaching group agreement, not by the battle of wills and egos, but by truthfully searching for the highest good of the individual, community, country or world. I don’t think these methods have much chance of success and use in the world unless we sincerely do the heart work first and are willing to commit to this for the good of humankind.

Can anyone watch the news these days and not have their heart tugged on a little bit or a lot. There’s too much that goes against nature going on in our world, and it would be a shift, indeed, if each human looked into their own heart and soul and discovered what it is that would be natural and in harmony (like the birds and the bees) for them to do — in big or little ways — that will increase the amount of goodness in the world on a daily basis.

The attitude of “I can’t do anything about it” is just not viable today in our world.

The technique of Heart Coherence was developed the Institute of Heart Math by Doc Childre. It is a simple, yet powerful technique to release stress, bring more coherence into your heart rhythms and build resilience. Once you’ve learned it, the technique only takes a minute to do and you can do it anywhere, anytime.

By the way, this is just not a “do-gooder” ideal. Simply by incorporating this as part of your life and prayer practice, the Institute has demonstrated by scientific tests, that you are creating goodness and health in your own body. Your own self-healing   powers (which many of us do not know we have; the birds and the bees know it!) will activate on many levels.

Physically, you may heal a wound, unblock a blockage, or intuitively know who you want to bring your treatment needs to; mentally, you may lighten up and find paths to uncomplicate complicated issues you wrestle with; spiritually, you will, for certain, develop a taste for this compassion that the Dalai Lama says is so necessary. And you will find a sense of connectness to others that most likely did not exist before.

I intend to bring Heart Resonance into my teaching workshops in the fall and spread its availability to learn in my little portion of this Earth.

This is science and technology with compassion and it works.  I can do my little part in nature to encourage harmony and love.  These qualities do need to be birthed into our world in ever increasing numbers. Our planet and its people are depending upon it.

For further information, www.heartmath.org

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