The only one thing more important than knowing who we are: Being aware of where we came from. I realized that recently, when I was giving messages from spirit as part of the holiday service at our Spiritualist church. As I said a quick, silent prayer for guidance, I felt the presence of a grandmotherly energy who wanted to speak. I described her: a short, stout woman with an Eastern European background, with rosy cheeks and a dimple on her chin. She showed me a picture of herself peeling potatoes in her kitchen and sitting beside a kettle. But what made her so memorable in the kitchen was she loved to laugh and tell stories. When I asked if anyone in the congregation recognized this grandma, I saw a young woman in the first row blinking back tears.
"That might be my grandmother, Mischka," the woman said.
Mischka asked me to wish her granddaughter a Merry Christmas. Then, her message was simple and elegant. "She’s saying, ‘Remember your stories. She wants you to have a good time with your family, and don’t sit in the corner by yourself. People like to be with you, and they like to hear your stories. Remember that your family is filled with stories."
Afterward, the woman told me the message had been very meaningful. I thanked her for her comments and wished her well – and ten minutes later forgot what it was exactly that I had said when I was bringing through her grandmother. That usually happens when I let spirit talk through me. I’m the messenger, not the message sender.
However, occasionally my memory gets a jog. The day after giving that message, I began reading Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. Dr. Remen uses a mind/body approach to health and healing when she treats people with life-threatening illnesses, and her book is an enlightening and very moving collection of stories from her life as a doctor.
Dr. Remen says she became a better doctor when she began listening to her patients’ stories. They talked of their love and devotion, and finding strength within themselves to cope with their debilitating diseases. "They would make me proud to be a human being," she writes, and adds how her patients’ words also give her the strength to manage her own illness, Crohn’s disease: "In time, the truth in them began to heal me."
"Everybody is a story," she notes. "When I was a child, people sat around kitchen tables and told their stories. We don’t do that so much anymore. Sitting around the table telling stories is not just a way of passing time. It’s the way the wisdom gets passed along – the stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering. Despite the awesome powers of technology, many of us do not live very well. We may need to listen to each other’s stories again."
As I reread that paragraph, I remembered how Mischka filled her kitchen not only with the warm scents of holiday baking, but with warm, comforting conversation of women sharing time and swapping stories. I thought of myself, my husband and my children – where we came from, what we’ve learned and where we’d like to go. And then I recalled a recent dinner I shared with my sisters’ families. Several months ago, my sister traveled to Halifax and found our grandparents’ immigration forms, detailing how they’d emigrated from Poland in the early 1900s. I was so moved to touch these old reproductions that were pieces of my history. My story.
And of course, that led to a round of, "Do you remember when grandma...?" and "Do you remember Uncle So-and-so." Tales of the long-lost cousin who was a jailbird (and may still be), the niece who used to – ahem! – entertain gentleman callers, and the elderly couple who were so much in love, they walked hand-in-hand even into their 80s… and on and on we went, remembering and loving every minute if it.
So, remember this as you spend time with your family, friends, co-workers and loved ones: Everyone has a story. Be sure to repeat them. And, most importantly, make sure your children hear them. Because one day, you’ll be part of the story they repeat to their children.