Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Bedtime story for an angel

A tribute to Matilda Mae.

I often shy away from reading blogs that tell a story of child loss. It touches a personal pain easily awaken again...

But for some reason I started reading Jennie's blog, Edspire, and the heartbreaking story of how her little girl, Matilda Mae, died in the night.

Once I started reading I could not stop. The thing is that Jennie writes with so much love for her baby girl that it makes very compelling reading.

I don't know Jennie. I didn't even know her blog but I haven't been able to stop thinking about her and her family. I have been reading her tweets as she went through reliving the tragedy, a week later, as she had to make plan for her baby's funeral. And I prayed and cried.

Today I would like to dedicate the following story to Matilda Mae. It's about the beauty all around us and it made me think of her.

The Hourglass

There once were two houses on a beach.

One of the houses was a small stone cottage, a fisherman cottage. An old man lived in it.

The other house was a big, modern bungalow. A business man owned it and spent his week-ends there.
That man was eaten up by envy. Each time he looked at the small fisherman cottage he saw the old man, looking out of his window and smiling. It was a smile full of joy and peace. And the business man would have given anything to smile like this.

One day the business man decided to go and see the old man who had the reputation of being wise and able to help people. That would be the first time in five years that the business man made contact with his neighbour.

So the business man walked up to the door of the stone cottage, hesitated, and knocked. The old man opened the door almost instantly, as if he had known that his neighbour was going to come and was waiting for him.

Without a word the old man stepped on the side and gestured for the business man to come in.

The younger man entered the little house. It was very bare and dark. He thought “Not much to smile about...”. Then, as his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, the business man saw that most of the walls in the room were lined with shelves. And on the shelves were rows and rows of hourglasses. It was a bit strange but the strangest was that in all the hourglasses the sand was in the top part and... it wasn't running down.

“Ah, said the old man, I see that you are looking at my hourglasses. I make them myself, from driftwood I collect on the beach, the glass I make and blow, and sand that I collect on the beach too. Come, I'll show you!”

Then the old man led the business man to a small table with two chairs on either side. He silently invited his visitor to sit down. He went to the rows of hourglasses and carefully picked one. Then he came back to the table and placed the hourglass in front of the business man.

The business man looked at the still sand, transfixed. Gently, the old man took his hand and placed it on the top of the hourglass. The sand started to run down, faster and faster, until it was running so fast that it looked like a clear brown ribbon.

The old man said : “This sand running down, it's your life, escaping you. You must find Beauty and keep it.”

The business man snatched his hand away from the hourglass as if it was burning him. “Do you mean, he asked, that I'm going to die?
 - No, no ! Replied the old man, I didn't say that Life is leaving you but that Your life is escaping you.”

And without another word the old man stood, went to open the door and gestured for the business man to leave, giving him the hourglass as he crossed the threshold.

As he walked in a daze towards his house the business man shook himself free of the impression of the dark room, the shelves of hourglasses and the voice of the old man.
“The sand in an hourglass, he thought out loud, my life escaping me! Silly old fool!”

Back in his house he threw the hourglass on the sofa and went back to work on his computer. But when later on he looked at the hourglass, lying sideways on the sofa, he saw that the sand was still running...
Seeing the man who worked his garden for him, digging outside, he went to talk to him. “Could you hold that a moment for me?”
The gardener took the hourglass and the sand slowed down, slower and slower, until you could count each grain falling down.

The business man took the hourglass back and the sand went fast again. Then he started running towards the village. He was getting scared. He saw some young boys watching the fishing boats in the harbour.
“Hey! Would you hold that for me for a moment?”
The youngest of the boys held the hourglass and the sand slowed down, slower and slower, until it wasn't running down at all any more.

The business man went back to his house, the hourglass in his hands, the sand going fast again. He sat down, head in his hands and thought about what the old man had said. He stayed like that the whole night and though. In the morning he had found the solution.

He was going to buy a manor, something with character and charm. His bungalow was sleek and practical but not beautiful. Yes, a manor would be perfect!

So in the following days the business man went in all the estate agent's offices in the area and he quickly found what he was looking for. It was a small but perfectly proportioned mansion with lovely panelled rooms and moulded ceilings. He bought it.

The sand was still running fast.

The business man spent another night thinking... In the morning he had found the solution.

He was going to buy a work of art, a painting, something created to be beautiful. A house could be beautiful but it was still a house whether art...

So in the following days he went in every art gallery. In each of them he said “I want to see the most beautiful painting you have. No! I want to see a painting that is Beauty itself.”

Eventually he found a portrait. The subject was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, with eyes of a mysterious and haunting colour. He bought the portrait.

The sand was still running fast.

The business man, once again, spent the night thinking. In the morning he had found the solution.

He would find a woman as beautiful as the woman in the painting, and marry her. He could not buy beauty but if he married a truly beautiful woman... That was the answer.

So, using his many connections, he started going to every big party, premiere, opening, any social event where he knew the most beautiful women would be attending. It took him a bit longer this time! But he found her.... A woman who looked very much like the subject of the portrait. She had the same eyes, of a mysterious and haunting colour. He employed all his charm and money to woe her and asked her to marry him. She said yes and they got married.

The business man did not love her, yet, but he married her.

The sand was still running fast.

This time the business man dud not sit and think. He packed a bag and left. He travelled the world in a quest for every thing that was beautiful. He got some silk in China, diamonds in Africa, and even a panther, a black panther in India.

But the sand was still running fast...

In the end the business man came back to his house on the beach. He didn't know what to do any more.

The business man went down onto the beach and looked at the stone cottage. The old man was there, looking out of his window and smiling.

Suddenly the business man turned his head and looked, not at the old man, but at the same thing at which the old man was looking. And he saw... the sea.

The business man gasped and felt that, for a moment, he could not breath. What he saw was so... beautiful.

It wasn't a stormy sea with formidable waves. No, just gentle waves, lapping at the sand.

It wasn't a splendid sunset of extraordinary lights and colours but green and grey and blue, a mysterious and haunting colour that reminded him of his wife's eyes...

It was nice, really nice. The gentle breeze stroking his cheek, the taste of salt on his lips, the shushing noise of the waves.

The business man closed his eyes and mouthed “Thank you...”

When he opened his eyes he looked at the hourglass in his hands. The sand wasn't running any more. It was filling up the hourglass.

The business man put the hourglass in his pocket, and he smiled...

In this story I wanted to talk about the quintessence of beauty.
  Last week I found it in a mum's love for her baby and in her baby's life. And I believe that this mum holds the beauty of her daughter's life in her heart.

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