Gavin Thomas Murphy runs a website called Gratitude In All Things where he looks to Ignatian Spirituality for strength and inspiration.
Here I offer a short story or imaginative contemplation on experiencing God’s love with others when we need it most, prompting us to find ‘gratitude in all things’:
I stop by to see my granny during this fine summer afternoon. The air is warm and balmy, the light in its full splendour, the long grass rubbing gently off the wind. I am a little nervous as I enter the nursing home. I am well aware of how much granny likes to complain, be it about a noisy elderly person, the lack of quality TV shows, or the blandness of the jelly and ice cream.
Some of her complaints, of course, may be pressing and real but it is the incessant moaning that frustrates me. Why can’t it just be like the old days when she was so sweet and inviting, so gentle and mellow, when she was such a balm to my soul?
As I take the elevator to the third floor, I wonder if I’m a bit harsh on granny; after all she probably has more than a touch of dementia at 93 years old. I take a deep breath as I exit the elevator and inhale a vanilla scent from a burning candle in the corridor. The bedroom door is already open. I knock a few times before entering. “Granny, there you are! Aren’t you looking beautiful today in your fancy attire?”
She looks at me with a half-smile as I bend down to kiss her cheek. She is sitting on her wheelchair in front of the TV. There is a comfy armchair next to her but she prefers to spend most of her days in the wheelchair, like she is on a one-stop train ride. She is wearing thin black pants and a brown garment decorated with gold and silver thread.
“Ah, it’s you,” she says. “You shouldn’t have bothered to come. You can see all I’m doing is staring at this TV box waiting to die.” I make a sigh and force a smile, “Why you know I have to come and visit you! Besides, you’re my favourite granny in the whole world”. Knowing that my other granny died a few years ago makes me feel somewhat authentic in what I say. Her half-smile enlarges a little and she lets out a high-pitched cackle, brushing away my comment.
We both sit down to watch a quiz show on TV for half an hour. A few of the contestants jump in constantly to answer the questions but they rarely win any points. However, a brown-haired man in his thirties scores well as he answers in a calm, soothing voice. He doesn’t show off, but we can tell he is well versed in general knowledge.
I invite granny to go for a walk outdoors as the long-grassed fields appear so pleasant in the summer sun. She declines to go, commenting that she prefers to watch TV even though she is complaining about it. She eventually agrees for me to bring her out in her wheelchair. I know she is able to walk herself, but I figure a short trip outdoors will still be good for her.
We take the elevator and go out through the back exit of the nursing home. On our right-hand side, there is a series of gently winding paths while expansive fields lie before us glittered with golden wildflowers. I can almost taste their sweetness. To my surprise, granny lets me assist her from the wheelchair onto a wooden bench that offers a view of the light-filled fields.
She initially criticises the bench’s awkward shape and speaks of other inconveniences, but all thoughts of complaining fall away after a while outdoors. She settles into her seat and begins to rest in silence. It’s as if she is slowly filling up with a sense of blessedness for the beautiful natural environment.
I am surprised to hear her breathe the warm country air. I see a gentle smile on her face and a supple and relaxed body. It seems that her mind and heart are touched with warmth and light and that she is blending into her environment, perhaps becoming one with creation. I feel calm and peaceful as I delight in granny’s experience and I am reminded of the presence of Jesus among us.
I imagine him sitting beside us as he also enjoys the golden view. He comforts us with a warm blanket of love. I am stirred to thank him – for letting our worries and concerns drop away before this beautiful sight of nature, and especially for granny’s moment of wonder and oneness.
I know that Jesus is deeply glad to receive my thanks, and he points to something more. He also invites me and granny to experience this full sense of blessedness in the middle of messy and difficult situations. I pray to respond to this invitation with all my soul.
For our hearts to triumph with love and appreciation, stilling the voice of complaints and negativity. Granny and I are filled with gratitude today, and we long to experience it again tomorrow.