One of the best things about owning my holistic wellness center, Eastern Livity, is that I get to host the best teachers and take their classes myself! We have now had three rounds of a Yoga+Writing series taught by yoga teacher and Arkansas State University professor, Dixie Keyes. This is perfect for me because I love to write, but my personal writing often gets put on the back burner. I do very well with classes, assignments and deadlines! It also exposes me to different writing techniques, to hear other’s unique perspectives and allows me to release stories from various times in my life that otherwise may never leave a journal or even my own memory. One assignment was a vignette–a brief, evocative description about a comfort item. At first, I had a hard time identifying my comfort item, as nothing springs to mind that I interact with often, like a special blanket or clothing item. Then, as I laid in bed looking at the shelf that holds my tchotchkes, I saw it. A little statue of two raggedy Ann and Andy like dolls hugging each other with the phrase, “Each day my love for you grows stronger. I’ll love you forever…even longer ” written at the bottom. It was from my Grandmother’s house and it instantly reminder me of her. This would be my item! This is what I wrote:

Her laugh was adorable. She was petite and delicate, yet robust and sturdy simultaneously. When she laughed, it was as though she was trying to conceal it, and her body shook as a result. Her eyes were pale blue. The creases around them told stores of hardship, but mostly of love. She radiated acceptance. I’m not sure she was capable of not loving unconditionally. She had a one pointed focus on the divine, and the love of God moved through her and emanated out of her and was her. She fully shaped me, yet it is only in the writing of this, nearly a decade after her passing, that new understandings are revealed to me.

I see her through a new lens. My guardian angel. My guru. My teacher sent before me to lead by example for my first 30 years. I see now, with no disrespect, her disregard for material processions. Look how cute, I say, gesturing to a knickknack I have never noticed on the shelf in her bathroom. Oh? Take it home with you, she replied. We were in the only bathroom in her house that had a bathtub, but it had long been turned into a sanctuary for plants and I have no memory of it ever being used to bathe a person.

One fall, before her passing, we were in her flower garden digging up begonias to save them from impending frost. There she was, 88 years young, two hands full of flowers and earth. She turned her head to look at me, Don’t you just love playing in the dirt? It’s my favorite thing! I am smiling, and loving her, and I snap a picture. Next year, we will use it on the front of the little card they hand out at the funeral home. The ones where you try and summarize everything a person was in this life in a single fold, four inch note card.

I sometimes thought she was too meek. I wished her more outspoken, bold. Now, I have a better understanding of her priorities. I see only her contentment, acceptance. I see her living in the present, relieved of desires. How you teach me still!

Each day my love for you grows stronger. I’ll love you forever…even longer.

In memory of Retha Lydia Holland Martin 1921–2011