Fred Rogers is a hero of mine. He famously suggested that we take one minute of silence to think about who has loved us into being. I like to do this often. I do it when I feel like I could float away. It grounds me in a way that only gratitude and memory can. Because to think of someone who has loved you into being is to think of yourself as a human with feet on the ground in the presence of some luminous someone whose love was both a sun and a moon. Whose love was both a quilt and a lighthouse. Whose love somehow alchemized the very soul you know as the truth of who you are, and who you have always been. They literally love you into being.
The first time I heard Fred Rogers ask this (in a previously recorded speech), my grandfather immediately came to my mind. I became emotional thinking about who he was to me when he lived, and who he is to me now, in the beyond. I pictured him standing there, tall, as I was a little girl. I pictured him at his typewriter, composing cards and letters. He was there at the table by the window eating small butter sugar sandwiches and then suddenly he was over there with the horses in the sun at his beloved farm. I heard him whistling - harmonizing with Louis Prima. I pictured him in the last days of his life - dying - and yet still laughing with me and telling me when he got better he’d love to ride bikes with me. I pictured him steadfast in spirit, never abandoning me, and showing himself in the most beautiful, and often humorous ways.
The minute was over and I will never forget the silent song of the memories of him, and the lightness of the infusion of love I was so lucky to receive. He loved me for me, and that is the song I hear when I see orange butterflies in my secret garden.
If I choose to spend more time, and go deeper, I can think of a trail of humans - a timeline of stars - all gentle loving lighthouses who have loved me into being.
My husband comes next, and then my precious children. I have somehow had the great luck to come across these humans and I just marvel that somehow they see something to love in me and their love for me mysteriously knits the light of my heart and truly loves me into being.
The most significant are always the ones who had no reason to love me and did. I simply landed in their orbit, and something told them to care for me, and they accepted the call as truth, without question. This is in the love of a first grade teacher, a highschool art teacher, and perhaps the chance meeting with a professor or three - all who came along to shape my very being and awaken the truth within me in ways I will walk in forever.
The fun ones are the ones who I have never met. They are characters in books, or famous people far removed (either in history, geography, or circumstance) but they loved me into being by virtue of their placement. By the mysterious and magical forces that place breadcrumbs in your life. These breadcrumbs become excavations and explorations and sometimes imaginary friends and kindred spirits.
As I began painting flowers, and thinking about offering them to other people, I had a difficult time naming the pieces. The flowers kept blooming in front of me, one after the other, but naming them proved to be a challenge.
Then a friend, another person in the timeline of people who have loved me into being, quietly and simply suggested that they could be “from”. From people, from a place, from a time. And suddenly, they all became gifts. Each bouquet was a gift from someone, and like only paintings of flowers can do - they became gifts that will live forever.
Just like the memories of those who have loved us into being.
Sometimes I feel like I will never have enough time to paint all the flowers I want to paint. I will never have enough time to honor all the souls and memories and breadcrumbs of my life. One day, perhaps there will be Forever Flowers From Fred, and either way you should try to take a minute and just close your eyes and think of all the people who have loved you into being. I bet you could name a whole room full of flowers, too.
I bet you are smiling.
(*This essay was written in memory of my grandfather who died 20 years ago today.)