Mind Matters — A Grandmother’s Prayer

I sit, watching the river flow by at the Brandywine Museum, while I ponder a Grandmother’s Prayer to her grandchild. Nearby, sits a new mother nursing her baby as the grandmother beams joy. A Mary Cassatt moment in a Kaethe Kollwitz world.

You may know Mary Cassatt’s paintings of serene mothers and children. Kaethe Kollwitz, however, was an artist who endured World Wars I and II in Germany. While her works were also of mothers and children, they depicted death, traumatic grief, poverty, and social unrest. (Needless to say, she was not favored in any way by Hitler.)

And so it is: our world pendulates between the loving inter-generational scene at the Museum and the scenes of refugee families fleeing terrorism and war; and violence and shootings here.

Recently, I sang in an Anna Crusis women’s choir concert. One song, A Thousand Grandmothers, by Holly Near seems especially relevant, carrying this pendulation with its words. One chorister reflected how the song connected her to the pain of the grandmother of the six month old whose parents were killed, after they themselves murdered fourteen people and injured many more. This was, of course, the San Bernadino, California, attack.

This grandmother’s disenfranchised grief and her grandchild’s senseless loss of father and mother can be added to all the other grief and trauma that the families in that community are experiencing.

Would that Holly Near’s words not simply ring out but be lived out:

Send in a thousand Grandmothers, they will surely volunteer
With their ancient wisdom flowing …
Sweet freedom songs they’ll sing.
A lullaby much stronger than bombs or threats to kill
A force unlike we’ve ever seen they will break the murderers’ will
They will break the murderers’ will. …
Let them rock the few who steal the most and rule with youthful charms
So they’ll see the damage that they do and will fall into Grandma’s arms. …
If you think these women are too soft to face the world at hand
Then you’ve never known the power of love and you fail to understand
An old woman holds a powerful force when she no longer needs to please
She can cut your shallow lies to bits and bring you to your knees. …
And pray for a thousand grandmothers will you please come volunteer
No longer tucked deep out of sight, will you bring your power here. …

My grandmother’s prayer for her grandchildren is my response to a “A Thousand Grandmothers” call. It is this:

May the cancer of prejudice and bigotry be cured.
May people accept they are more alike than different from one another.
May people understand that spirituality—whatever religion—is rooted in love and kindness, not hatred and revenge.
May people blinded by power and wealth see through the illusions those things bring.
May people deaf to the truth about climate change, hear and take action.
May people muted be able to speak truth to power.

Little one, we humans have been circling around the same themes for thousands of years. Just remember, that’s okay. Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” So little one, carry us forward on this human journey to greater consciousness! You can!