The Unforgotten Ones
“So what does it really mean when someone says, ‘you are in my thoughts and prayers,’ or in these more politically careful days, ‘you are in my thoughts?’” my friend asked me about ten days ago.
Good question and an even better one after I really thought about it. At first I figured it meant very little other than, “I hear you, I acknowledge your pain” in the moment. Especially without the prayer part, what real benefit is it to be in someone’s thoughts?
Yeah, some days I probably think too much and come up with way too little. I put it all aside after I concluded that thoughts in the above context are like nothing other than momentary attention. Prayers, well, maybe they were worth more. Honestly, the jury’s out for me on that one. But then…
This morning I had a little epiphany while driving to work as I suddenly thought about my Grandma Baillie, who died 22 years ago. Gone, but not forgotten. In fact the only way I can remember what part of a ham I should buy at the grocery store, or what exactly goes into a great cole slaw, is to channel her in and listen to her advice again.
I am able to do this because she resides firmly in my thoughts.
Visiting Grandma when she was alive felt to me like a holy obligation. She didn’t live terribly far away from me. But I am a busy person, doing, doing, doing stuff all the time, and finding a slice of any day to call or pay an actual visit often proved difficult. We always basically had the same conversation. Plus, she refused to gossip. Even as I loved her dearly in life, knowing she was always there for me in the background whenever I needed her seemed enough for me more often than I really want to admit. Notice the selfish bias that doesn’t even address what this essential-to-me woman might have needed from me more often than she dared ask.
Youthful excuses aside, at the time, I just frankly couldn’t bother myself too much in response to what I knew was true: that she craved my company and the presence of all her grandchildren, and she craved it mightily. She wasn’t looking for attention; she wanted the experience of being with me, with us. Especially as she approached the end of her life, she didn’t want to be alone.
Now I understand this grandmotherly longing from the inside out. I did see her fairly often (compared to what I am not sure), but now I see that letting her know more frequently, more carefully how often she was in my thoughts, even when I wasn’t physically there, would have been a great blessing to her.
Once in an emotionally vulnerable moment Grandma expressed to me her greatest fear. Wiping tears from her glasses with trembling hands, she said, “Honey I just don’t want to be forgotten. I don’t want to die and have people never think of me.”
Oh, Grandma. What did I say to that? “That’s not gonna happen?” Sounds like me. I hope I hugged you. I only remember your fear now, all these years later. I remember what you said, and not really understanding it at the time.
“You are in my thoughts.” It is as true now as it was then, but now the words come easily to me, and I say them nearly every day.