” In the end only three things matter; how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of those things that are no longer meant for you.” Buddha
I took a road trip back in time this weekend. My mother recently moved to Northfield to live, but completion of her move has been delayed due to winter and time constraints. So, on a beautiful spring Saturday at the end of March, she and I make our way back to her home in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Our mission is to bring back more pieces of her life-plants, papers, paintings. This snow-free, sunny trip feels good, but we both have mixed emotions as we drive. Those of you who have been on this journey know that it can be emotionally charged, draining as well as cleansing. Either way, it is also a chance to weave together past and present.
My parents were both musicians so my brother and I grew up around many instruments. The baby grand piano was the cornerstone of them all, however. It stood, shiny, black, and stately, in the front window of our home and on it my brother and I learned to play; my mother played or gave lessons to others. As young children we felt the grace and beauty of music woven into our lives.
This piano has been in our family for over 50 years now, but it will not be coming to Northfield. On April 1, movers will take it to a new life, this time at a memory care home on the edge of Menomonie. Over the past few months my mother has decided that this instrument, bought in the early days of my parents’ marriage, is no longer meant for her, it needs to move into the lives of others. Very soon, the piano that brought our family such joy will bring music to elderly patients living within the confines of dementia. Without knowing it, my mother has arrived at the place where Buddha says we should be. She is gracefully letting go of something no longer meant for her. She is sharing her gift of music with others in a new way. What better ending for this well-loved instrument could there be?
Decisions like these cause us to think about the objects in our lives. More and more often now, as I clean closets and come to terms with the pieces of hobbies I may not continue or uncover clothes that no longer fit, I give thought to the question- who else could benefit from these now? What may happen to it when it is no longer meant for me? Through questioning I come to decide-is this a passing, perceived need or, like the piano, a lasting gift to be passed along to someone else sometime in the future?
Things we own can reflect our true nature or they can represent the power of desire and submission to societal pressures of advertising or conformity. We do not need more “stuff”, we need more empathy and compassion toward each other and the world in which we live. Maybe now more than ever it is important that we continue to think about the wisdom Buddha proclaimed thousands of years ago. Reflecting our love from and for others, living gently on this earth we share, and letting go gracefully of those things that we are no longer meant to have is how we become whole within our lives and the greater universe in which we all inhabit.