Monday, May 12, 2008


George Kunz examining what may be the crystal of kunzite shown here. From the Mineral Collector, Vol. X, No.8, October, 1903, pp. 113–114.

“Many good lessons result from the disease process that helps to change both the patient and the healer. There is a change in the awareness level of all souls involved in an illness that directly relates the disease to the interaction of care as giving and receiving, which nurtures everyone who is involved if fear is not in control of our heart. As we learn to love ourself during the lesson of disease, we must also learn to receive love. As we dispense love to those with disease, we learn how to give love from our heart.” Healing Ourself, Kathy Oddenino, 344

I love pearls.

Pearls are the products of living animals. In 1908 George Frederick Kunz wrote what has been called a masterpiece about pearls. Once I read that the knotting of pearls on a string began when someone thought that keeping one pearl from scratching another was a way to protect each pearl’s luster. Fine, fragile spheres can be damaged when rubbing too close. The knots give each individual bead breathing room. Because I was born one of triplets (and we have a birthday in a few days), I have my own sense of curled up clusters, of what it means to rub, and what it means to be strung together. My name, in some history, means “pearl,” as does my mother’s.

My mother may be sitting in her living room right now, many states away, wrapped in her blanket, watching the news as I am. Here today is all wet. I open myself to my mother’s arms as I think of her. She has had cancer, then pneumonia, and, her heart weakened, she moves more slowly, or not as far in one go. The medicines she takes have their signatures that mix inside her. When I hear her laugh, I remember every giggle we’ve shared. I never saw her knit, crochet, or knot beads, although I have seen her sew, fix tears and hems. She has had pearls as long as I can remember.

I am not a mother, but I have been given the gift of opening my heart to the energy of life, which mothers create and nurture. As I sat on the hospital bed with my mother late last year, hooked up as she was to tubes, I admired her persistent grace, her eternal spirit as she expresses herself. As I watched another mother in my life bear pain with the persistence of a mind and heart constantly tuned into healing and the life force of love, I thought again how stones are ground to gravel, to fine sand, how a grain of dirt lodges in the sea creature to begin the formation of a pearl.

When I hear a mother say, I didn’t realize how sick I was, and it never occurs to me to ask doctors what they’re doing, or to think that they don’t know what they’re doing, I am reminded of the beauty of interaction, of nudges, of promises – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Now when I read or hear descriptions of escalating symptoms, I remember: running roughshod over nerves. Strong medicine barely touches it, but the graphic picture of pygmies with spears I get loud and clear.

Hearing grown children’s concerns, and our sometimes gentle prodding to take the medicine, to do what the doctor tells you to do, I know we learn to love by trusting, being there, showing we care simply by who we are. There are no enemies, one son said his mother taught him: why not just love everyone?

This is very different from our habitual thinking: So long as we do what we are told to do, everything will get better. I understand this sense of limbo, of waiting for change – while washing dishes, washing clothes, making tea, paying bills. Through this “mother’s day,” I remember why love is our creative energy, why love heals. I listen to the rain on the roof, drive through the flashing lightning, feel the electricity of life, admire the persistent fragility of blooms. As I read recently in our spiritual philosophy handout, Nothing is more beautiful than personal responsibility.

In the past year I have learned more about Florence Nightingale and the source of the art of nursing and healing than I ever knew I would. I have a better sense of who she was, what motivated her, and why that determined loyalty and compassion she had for those suffering remains eternally precious to help healing along. Florence Nightingale understood her responsibility to love one another, and why love is the healing energy. This is our gift to learn as we live.

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