The world is so enormous it's terrifying. It is exhilarating. Terrifying. Exhilarating. Timeless human responses to the vastness of places and faces that can both lift us up and set us free and also send us tumbling through time and space, lost.
A familiar sight can be the most brilliant rejoice of our life.
A lost object, a slipped ribbon can terrify. In dementia, the grandmother searches endlessly for the pink ribbon. She runs her hands through her hair and then pats the bed, over and over. But it was just here! Did it slip out? Hand her the ribbon. Tell her it fell right here, next to her lap. Remind her of the sunshine on the day she wore it as a child, the way the heat of the sun felt on her cheeks, her brow, the roughness of her father's callus as he held her hand in line, the tickling of baby hair from her little sister's head as they sat in a row on the train. Remind her she was loved. Remind her that she is loved. That ribbons may fall away, but her cells carry the sunshine, the press of her mother's mouth behind her ear, the love. If you have never met this old lady before, simply close your eyes and think of someone you love more than life itself, and imagine they have forgotten you love them. Open your eyes and give whatever you now have, palpate it with your fingers and lay it on her knees, tell her how they all love her still, how you know they do. Because if you know about deep, timeless love for yourself, you know about love for everyone. Press your fingers on her skin and smile. She was a beautiful baby, you are sure of it. You can suddenly see, perfectly formed in a blaze of haloed light, the profile of her little face as her sister once saw it, and you are shocked to realize that you love this strange, mad little old lady as much as if she were your own child, though you are half her age. You throw your arms around her shoulders before you can stop yourself, and the strangest thing of all is how she nods and pats your back, telling you It's OK sweetie, I love you too, and her voice is so happy and simple that you know you are riding through that Spring light with her, on a day long ago, when the world was still large enough to be thrilling and small enough to be safe.
One day a long time ago, you were a baby who waved goodbye on a train, you say. Now you are a little old lady in a bed and all the people who ever loved you are inside of you. You don't have to look for your ribbon anymore. You aren't lost. You are safe. And because you say it with the entire conviction of a totally insane person- or a person transformed radically by love- she believes you, and she lies down smiling, eyes closed, beatific. You leave the room with tears on your face and you can still feel the radiant warmth from her eyes and her smile, transformed in love.