Journal/ update: acts of deliberation

This past weekend, I traveled across several states to be with my grandmother during her final days on Earth. This was the first trip I’ve taken since my food sensitivity exploded; the last time I left The Lou was for a vacation, during which my stomach churned and my intestines gurgled; I was nauseated and inflated like a balloon character in a parade.

Now that I know my allergen is in everything, I always bring my own, with the obvious exception of a bed to sleep in. Fortunately, I found out relatives (who I’d only met once in passing) had a clean, health-safe home. They turned out to be funny, interesting and glad for the company. I also got to (re)connect with other relatives, not to mention have a change of scenery and a break from my job.

Gramma knew Jesus Christ’s teaching, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

When she voluntarily moved into an assisted living facility, she drastically scaled back. Furthermore, when she voluntarily transferred to the nursing home, she paired down even more. There were few possessions of which to dispose, aside from heirloom jewelry and photos. Beyond those, the only decisions to made were the time and date of her funeral since all arrangements had already been made and paid for.

If I stop complaining about each sacrifice I have to make for my health conditions— or as Gram would say, “Quit hollering and rastling!”– I can see its benefits and count it as a gift rather than a burden. I’m learning what she already knew while adding to it. Here are my top 10 wellness principles, which I hope will be part of my own legacy:

1. Replacing synthetic products with natural ones, such as from detergent to soap berries, is chemical free, biodegradable and budget- friendly (especially if you grow them yourself).

2. Natural fabric (such as linen, hemp and wool) aerates my skin rather than clogging my pores and is biodegradable so as not to litter the world with unnatural particulate.

3. Trading in plastic for glass and stainless steel allows me to reheat without residual stains/ odors/ flavors, reuse durable dishwasher- safe containers.

4. Knowing the source of my food– every ingredient mixed myself– means no worries about food poisoning scares and recalls due to outbreaks of deadly bacteria.

5. Clean (organic) fruits and vegetables help me bypass the effects of sprays, gasses and wax. Local produce helps me eat in season, which compliments the effects of the weather and climate on my body while providing a built-in rotational diet.

6. Eliminating artificial sweeteners, flavoring and dyes ensures maximum nutrients and few/ no empty calories. Moreover, it keeps my blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and metabolism easily under control.

7. Isolation forces me to further develop my creativity and to stop escaping opportunities to be alone with my thoughts, which reveal attitudes that need to be examined and confessed.

8. Vanity loses its power when the only fuel is inconvenience (e.g. wearing a breathing mask, giving up hive- inducing cosmetics, carrying a bag full of jars of homemade food to every social event).

9. When something is rare (in my case “safe” food and surrounding environment), I appreciate it more. This makes life precious and its events more special.

10. The more clutter (physical AND emotional) I clear away, the more of God I can see. As I tell everyone who expresses concern about all the clothing, furniture and dishes I’ve had to give up: it’s just stuff. It only gets in the way and you can’t even take it with you.

The Bible’s, “whatever one sows, that will he also reap” comes to mind. To facilitate health, orderliness and frugality requires advanced planning but such investments will yield enough resources to give abundantly to others.

Gramma was a great example by being present in every moment: she worked hard at each task so when it was time to chat, play, laugh she could fully enjoy her leisure and other’s company knowing nothing was left undone. That’s how she cultivated and maintained relationships, going so far as to visit shut-ins’ homes and elderly centers.

The Bible also says, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead... a person is justified by works and not by faith alone... For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Gram, who lived in the rural North surrounded by acres of woods, ate from her garden, cooked from scratch, did her own chores by hand, lived simply, wasted little (time, money, or words), saved, planned, tangibly lived out her beliefs, loved deeply, gave generously and prayed fervently. She lived to a robust 97. After a series of mini strokes, she passed (painstakingly cared for and surrounded by those who loved her– family, friends and staff alike) of heart failure without having to suffer the agony of gradual kidney failure.

Inheriting things of Gramma’s keeps her memory alive; each time I wear her jewelry, wrap up in her blanket, dry with her flour sack towels, or cook in her bowls and pans, I treasure her legacy of responsibility, strength, love and faith. I should be so wise. I should be so diligent. I should be so outward- centered and future- focused. Perhaps then I could be so blessed. It’s time to make choices accordingly before it’s too late.

“‘Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!‘”

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