Honoring saints is a focus at this time of year in my faith tradition. The day after zany costumes, tricks and treats, we devote our thoughts and prayers to remembering those bright, shining souls who perhaps shone brightest for us in life. They loved us, they guided us, they inspired and helped us to become the best of what we are. They deserve our gratitude, whether it takes the form of a faith tradition or a simple thank you – or the possibility I suggest at the end of this post.
I certainly have many reasons for Honoring Saints, both living and passed away, from my life. But at this time each year, and often in between, there is one particular bright, shining soul I draw near to in my heart. She was a gift of starlight and magic, illuminating my first seven years. Darkness fell after she was gone, but during our precious days together she had taught me how to access the light. Here is a small snippet from among many, many stories of how she did that.
Excerpt from Lifted to the Light – A Story of Struggle and Kindness. A Memoir.
Everything good in my life began with Grandma. She taught me about the beautiful things, beginning with her flowers. Her garden was vast and varied in the English tradition. She’d point out which blooms to snip at what place along the stem, so the others could flourish.
“Cut them here, Lovey. They’ll bring light into the house.”
Her name was Alice Jane Rowland Boudiette. She died when I was seven years and three days old, but I remember being with her as if it were yesterday. With Grandma, I relaxed and was never afraid because she gave me no reason to be.
Her long white hair was braided and wrapped around her head in a circle as tight as the love she wrapped around me. She put on rimless glasses for reading and needlework. She wore housedresses and laced-up shoes with chunky heels every day except Sunday, and she always smelled like bath powder.
She stood very straight in her sturdy shoes and taught me I must stand straight too because someday I’d be tall like her. She had me walk with a book on my head. Chin up, shoulders back, head held high, one step in front of the next, step after step. She said that was how I should walk the world.
“You’re as good as any of them, Lovey,” she told me.
Grandma was a quiet person. She taught me how to live a good life, more by example than with words. Most of all, Grandma was a woman of abiding faith, and her idea of living that faith was to do service. Taking care of me was part of that service.
She did other forms of service too. She knitted mittens, scarves and caps for the needy children of her neighborhood and passed them out from the porch of her tall brown, now white, house on West Main Street in Watertown, New York, as they increased in number over the years. She cared for the sick too, with homemade poultices and medicines.
She served the church by preparing for Sunday coffee hour in the cavernous reception hall of Trinity Episcopal on Sherman Street. I remember dark wood and leaded glass windows and the smell left behind from decades of wax and polishing, but my memories of Grandma are not in that hall. I remember her in the church kitchen making coffee, tea and cakes and humming the hymns that resonated from the pipe organ above.
She also taught me to pray. Occasionally, I stayed overnight at her house after being with her all day. On those precious evenings I’d sleep in her bedroom next to the kitchen. She had the tallest bed I’ve ever seen except in museums. It was piled high with tatted sheets and comforters and, underneath, a featherbed that was wonderfully soft, and all of those linens were white.
She’d place white wooden steps at the side of her bed, and I’d kneel on the second step with my hands folded. My night gown was white cotton in the warm months and white flannel with tiny pink rosettes in winter. Grandma sat next to me on the edge of the bed, sometimes still wearing her apron with the bib almost to her neck to protect her housedress from being powdered by baking flour. She taught me to pray there at her bedside.
“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
After that came the “God blesses,” my moment for Honoring Saints. I’d honor everybody I knew, starting with family and moving outward to more and more obscure acquaintances, stretching the moment as long as I could, until a gentle hand touched my shoulder. “That’s enough, Lovey.”
Her voice was weary by that time of the evening and echoed quietly of England. I’d climb the rest of the way onto her bed and under the covers she’d folded back for me. She pulled the sheets and blankets up under my chin and tucked them around me. Then she bent down and kissed me on the cheek. I can still see her smile as she smoothed my pale hair from my pale forehead. “Spun gold,” she’d say as she touched me.
I hope this brief recollection of mine will inspire you to write your own Honoring Saints snippet in whatever form it may take. A scene, a poem, a list of recollections Honoring Saints. Any way the words arrive, I hope you will record them. I would be most grateful if at least some of you would send those writings to me so that I might include them in this blog. If you are moved to do so, attach your contribution to an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please, make sure the email subject line reads Honoring Saints. Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com.
– R|R –
What readers are saying about A Time of Fear & Loving. “The tension in this novel was through the roof.” “Warning. Don’t read before bed. You won’t be able to sleep.” “Orr is the queen of ramped-up stakes and page-turning suspense.” “The best one yet, Alice!” “A budding romance sizzles in the background until it ignites with passion.”