Some time ago I felt a sudden inspiration to write a letter to my grandfather. He is 91 years old and lives in New Zealand. Having grown up in Germany, I have little contact to my family in New Zealand, not only due to the geographical distance. There are many resentments carried through the generations, making communication difficult. I recognize in my family a pattern, as well as in the larger-scale of society, an inability of the elders to open up and trust their children and grandchildren, and an unwillingness of the younger generation to learn from and accept their ancestors.
After having spent the summer in Plum Village, I felt enough clarity, compassion and courage to write a love letter, to finally break the silence and to reestablish this so valuable and vital connection of life itself… the stream of life.
I want to share with you the letter-exchange to inspire you to tap into this rich source of support, love and wisdom from your own elders. Get to know them. Find out about what is behind the image that you have. As they are getting older and closer leaving their body behind , the ultimate shines through their whole being more and more clearly. You might be astonished what you will discover.
I, certainly was.
I write this letter from Holland. Autumn has begun to send wind and rainclouds and I wholeheartedly enjoy the change of season after having spent all summer in southern France.
I love to live. I enjoy each day, each moment, each breath. Being outside under the open sky, surrounded by nature, I feel so alive.
When I look at people, I look at them with eyes of love. Everyone just wants to be happy.
Me, too. I have the privilege to have made the experience that money doesn’t necessarily bring me happiness and freedom. It brings me many comforts and a certain degree of independence.
But true happiness is sourced from something else, something deeper.
truthfulness to oneself and others,
I think of you very often. Each time when I open my wallet to buy some food, I smile. I know that I have not worked for that money myself. It is a gift of you, of my ancestors.
Aware of the responsibility I carry with this, I look deeply into what I really need. I don’t need much. I live a simple life. I have everything I need: food, warm clothes, a place to sleep, friends and a direction in life, a path to walk on.
I have all the conditions to be happy.
What is a life worth, that is burdened by illness?
It’s so precious.
I feel the impermanence of my body with every breath.
I know the gifts that I have received through it:
Endurance, but also softness, courage, but also acceptance of weakness, determination to stay true to myself, to not make compromises on what my heart tells me.
This is the way I live.
So here I stand with all these treasures, that I have received from my ancestors and people around me, material and non-material treasures, and I look around me. I look at the world. I look at what’s happening in the world.
And I feel responsibility. I feel I can’t keep those treasures to myself. They have never been mine. They belong to the world. They always have.
I learn to love. Learn to love everything, because I want to act from love instead of fear.
I love you. Although I have met you just a couple of times in my life and I have rarely talked to you, I know that I love you.
You are part of everything that happens in my life.
I wish I could listen to what you have to say. You have lived for so many years, and not knowing what you have to say makes me feel like having lost the key to a box filled with jewels. I have so many questions.
Who are you? Who are you really? What is important to you? What makes you get out of bed each morning? What sustains you from the inside? Do you have a dream? What do you want to pass on? Based on your life experience, what do you want the young generation to carry on?
Please share with me.
I don’t want it to get lost.
I want to carry you on.
Dear Grandpa, in a way, I already carry you on. You have passed on many talents and qualities to me. Intelligence, curiosity, generosity, determination, care-fulness, humbleness, persistence, patience,…
Next week, there will be a one week Workshop about Ecology, peace and sustainability for young people in Europe, that I have organized together with friends. I learn so much in what I’m doing. Much more than any university could teach. Things that really matter. To me.
You are part of this. Your gifts enable me to not work for money, but for what I believe in, for what I love.
I love this earth. I love the people on it. And the animals. And the plants.
I want life to continue.
I’m inseparable from it. I’m inseparable from you. Thank you for bringing me into life. Thank you for being who you are and making me who I am.
I send you a hug and sunshine from my heart.
Where do I start?
Firstly I want o thank you for quite the loveliest letter I have ever received from any of my grandchildren – a most perceptive and thoughtful letter – full of feeling and emotions. I confess that part of my delays in replying is due to the fact that may eyes kept misting over and I cannot see to write.
For the message of your philosophy of life, to the beautiful hand painted edges of your note paper and to the carefully hand pressed flower. I thank you.
I do feel most privileged to share with you your private thoughts and questions – and so many questions!!
I feel sure that a deep belief sustains you based on love. There is no other way I know of that’s there for you all the time seeping into your very being – there is no other way! I do understand that.
Youth is a time of experiencing and experimenting, of uncertainty of feelings, of belief in what the future holds, of seeking answers and above all of having hope!
At the threshold of your life’s fulfillment you are having to cope with the frailness of your body that is slowly eroding your future. Your letter tells me over and over how you are arising to this challenge with such courage, determination and at the same time being true to yourself. I keep have this feeling of helplessness. For what little it may be worth you have, totally, my moral heartfelt and practical support. Just tell me in what ways I can help!
In many ways, old age is not what I visioned it to be. A time for reflection, serenity, of enjoying life in leisurely way. I am now finding it quite the opposite. Now, quite quickly I’ve moved into what seems to be the final stage of survival. Of coping with a pain wracked body and fast declining faculties, all to varying degrees that come and go, but with ever increasing severity. In a strange way you and I are living parallel lives. The real difference, I suggest, is that I am moving towards, acceptance, resignation and the final inevitability of death at the end of my allotted span. But you are being denied a normal life expectancy which is an infinitely harder situation with which to deal. Even medical science has failed you and have not yet come up with an acceptable solution.
You write with such confidence and clarity of thought and with a wisdom far beyond your years. You know I used to be able to do that but also no more. Perhaps “Mother Nature” has recently called for my life’s file, reviewed it and put it on the short list having, I would guess, decided that I had more than my fair share of this organic thread (or genome) we might alternatively call life or consciousness that binds every living organism, be it in any shape or form down to the smallest speck of life. The wonder of it all is that it is so complex, yet so simple and elegant that we, living within a three dimensional universe find that it actually works. (sorry, a bad day for my writing)
Then I come up against the concept of time. It keeps defeating my thought processes. Our whole beautiful planet is no more than a speck in time. It just seems to me that the human race always suffers from a super inflated ego and along with free will allows the forces of evil, fear, greed to fester while on the other side of our being is goodness, truthfulness and the many other virtues that you list, but above all is love.
That all embracing universal state of consciousness that enables us to make the intolerable tolerable and so much more for those who can open their hearts to it without restriction. May I suggest that you have broken into that magic state of being – just trust you heart and instincts.
All my love,