All along the Atlantic seacoast still stand the remnants of beautiful architectural structures that once beamed shining lights to guide countless ships to safety in the darkness of the of the treacherous ocean night. They were known as Lighthouses.
My illiterate grandmother, Mrs. Bessie, who was a real Steel Magnolia, raised me. She was and still is a Lighthouse that guides my every move. Even though she is now flying with the Angels, there is not a day I do not reflect back and think of all she has given me in making me a better person and demanding excellence in everything I did and continue to do.
I think that one of our society's greatest shames is the way that we treat the elderly today. We put them in nursing homes and many times find little time or care less about visiting them and helping to fulfill what really is the final step in the "Circle of Life". "The Forgotten People", as I call them, hold so much history and the necessary values for what it takes to make it in this world. What we don't realize is that they are America's greatest natural resource, and its most underused asset.
They can take us back in time when things were not so simple. When there was no welfare. No health insurance. No low-income housing. When you had to work hard to survive and their primary focus was taking care of their families regardless of the circumstances and the sacrifices that had to be made. In today's society, after the first generation of immigrants, the work ethic, the values, and the financial achievements greatly diminishes with each passing generation. We did not learn the values that kept them moving forward. They wanted better lives for their children, but in turn the values that kept their families together began to erode with each passing generation. Because we lost respect for all the sacrifices they had to make and were not able to experience all they had to sacrifice just to survive.
I remember in my grandmother Bessie's later years her many lonely days when many of her friends had passed away what she would given just to have someone to visit her each day to lift her up. She worked her entire life helping others, raising children, grandchildren and then great children. Then to be left with so much loneliness in the end because we as individuals could not find the time to be that shining beam that she was, guiding us through the darkest of times when we were lost.
I had four bothers and one sister, but for some reason I was always the closest grandchild to her. She monitored my every move all the way through my life. She had to know how I was doing each and everyday. I appreciated everything she ever did for me from a very young age, but never really realized until two days after her death why out of all her many grandchildren I was considered by many to be her favorite. Shortly after her funeral and reflecting back with my aunt about her she explained to me why Mrs. Bessie had taken such a STRONG interest in my development.
She told me, "Steve after all these years and now you being 35 years old I will tell you why you were her favorite. It had been a long held family secret that your grandmother's son, your father, was not your real father. You were born out of an affair that your natural mother had with another man. She made it her mission in life that you never know this secret. She wanted you to always feel that you belonged. That someone loved you regardless of who you were or where you came from. It was something inside of her that saw the goodness you had inside from a very young age and she told me many times, "I am his beacon of light. I am his only hope. I am his mother, father and grandmother. He did not ask to be born into this world, so I knew that if he ever felt he was alone or different the light I saw in him and nourished all those years might not ever shine through and brighten the path for others to follow."
There is not a day that goes by that I do not thank my grandmother, Mrs. Bessie, for being my Lighthouse that guided and still guides me through the darkest nights to the shores of safety. I look to her for inspiration and guidance and I realize that she is still making sure my light shines even in the darkest night.
So many nursing homes are filled with so many "forgotten" people. Considering all they have done for so many others, to be forgotten is truly an American tragedy. Now when they need us most as a Lighthouse rarely are we willing to be a simple beam for them just to bring a smile to their face and guide them through the darkest period of their lives. These should be their best years. Sharing stories of years gone by, memories of childhood, what they were like as a child, what made them special. But we simply fail to recognize how much we will lose from the history of each of our lives when the memories fade with the passing of these individuals. What a shame. What a loss. I really believe everybody has a life story that needs to be told. You may never have the chance to tell your story to future generations. Just think, you may pass from this world without anyone ever knowing you passed this way.
I see things each day, the simplest of things that often help me reflect back on my grandmother, but these reflections are different than the ones that you see as you look into a pool of clear water. The small stones and obstacles that come into my life that might cause me to fall I simply toss them in that pool of water and the reflection of reality disappears for a moment and comes back when times are smooth. The reflections I have of my grandmother, on the other hand, can never be disturbed and as time goes by they are my constant, my beacon in the night. Mrs. Bessie truly was and still is a great Lighthouse. I am so glad she allowed her light to shine on and through me.
Please inquire about Steve Edwards' Miracles Are Possible speaking engagements for your senior citizens centers, nursing homes and other events so that he can inspire, motivate, reflect and express his thanks to the many Lighthouses that have inspired us all and will guide our paths for many years to come!