The line to the dock was short. We had just missed the 8:00 ferry and were now front and center for the 8:30 with thoughts of the day ahead filling every ounce of the wait. The sky was gray, but not the heavy kind of gray that adds extra weight. It was a gray that seemed to allow the reds, yellows, and oranges of the nearby trees permission to boldly say “Look at me! I’m changing into something beautiful just for you!” It was a gray that seemed to be welcoming us to add our own color to the day, as well as slowing us down long enough to see our own reflections in the soft and still of just being quiet.
My sister and I had just shared a double bed in our cousin’s home in West Seattle for a few short, but restful hours, and were now on our way to Whidbey Island for a long overdue day with our 92-year-old grandmother. The ferry ride was calming, with only a slight breeze and very little commotion. We sat in chairs inside the deck window and talked about soccer schedules, football games, marriage, stresses at work, and even quick meals our families had enjoyed recently. Why had we not made time for these conversations until now? How do the four hours we live apart keep us from connecting more regularly?
Our drive from the south end of the island to the north wound its way through farmland, evergreens, and beautiful deciduous trees dropping their leaves — allowing freedom to swirl through the air. The glimpses of the water caught our eyes, and we both noticed the familiar signs and landmarks that have filled our hearts for years. We passed by the hospital we’d spent hours in — singing and praying our Papa Roy through the last few days of his life. We crossed the intersection that led to the cemetery our family had released handfuls of beautiful red balloons from with my Grams leading us in “I’ll Fly Away.” And as we drove, we reminisced about the beautiful moments and memories this island has given us, anticipating more to come in the hours that lie ahead.
With an eight-ounce decaf caramel macchiato in hand for Grams, a box of our favorite donuts, and a ramekin filled with the treasured family favorite — rice pudding — we made our way into the care facility our beautiful grandmother has called home for the past seven years. The hallway was lined with beautiful seascape photographs, and the porch outside room 201 held the flowers that told us we were in the right place. Joy was evident and soaked our souls. We knocked with care and then ushered ourselves into the room, greeted by a quiet, yet happy shout of “Oh girls ... hooray … you’re here!”
The next few hours were filled with conversations, laughter, questions, answers, and even bits of advice I hope to hold onto for the rest of my life. We shared a meal together in the large dining hall, completed a crossword puzzle successfully, updated school pictures on the wall, took a short nap, FaceTimed with my parents, brother-in- law and nieces, shared a to-go order of delicious fish ‘n’ chips for dinner, and loved each other the best we knew how. Tears fell and were wiped away, laughter filled the quiet, and even the soft snores of true rest were welcoming. Those hours were priceless in every sort of way.
Time is something we have very little of these days — no matter what age we find ourselves at. My sister and I, like most women our age, move at a very fast pace, filling every second we have with something … anything … everything. But that day, those 9 hours, they seemed to be the slowest and steadiest of hours either of us had recently spent. They put the brakes on our screaming, roller coaster-paced life, giving us just enough time to stop and honor each other and our grandmother with the gift of being present over perfect.
That day with our grandmother — even in the short dose that is was — allowed us to rest, not only physically, but mentally. It brought us back to simplicity and a rhythm of being who we’ve been created to be. Being present over perfect, slow over rushed, and calm over chaotic that day gave my sister and me meaning over mania, but it also gave our grandmother an opportunity to see us slow down long enough to truly show her what she means to us. Those unrushed hours offered each of us treasured time with no expectations, which is exactly what many of us crave.
As the holidays approach, and time with family and friends fill the spaces of our calendars, may we all look for, and vow to create, opportunities to experience the tremendous value in finding time, as well as making time, to connect with those we love most. May we slow down long enough for the layers of expectations and pressures to fall away — making room for the present. Because that time you find and give is truly the perfect “present” … and, according to my 92-year-old Grams, can’t be bought, but is worth absolutely everything!