The Wind in the Chimes

I am always fascinated when I talk with friends or family or read accounts of visitations from the other side of the veil. Since losing my mother and grandmother in my thirties, I have been lucky enough to have experiences and dreams with them that pierced the veil.

I’ve written in earlier blogs about physical visitations or signs from my mom: dozens of seagull feathers stretched out along my path on Myrtle Beach shortly after I prayed for a sign that she was there with me; the seagull with a dart in its chest that sat beside me on two whole consecutive days on the beach on Boca Grande, Florida; and a New Year’s Day at Folly Beach with, literally, hundreds of seagulls filling the sand and sitting calmly while I walked amongst them, snapping pictures. In life, Mama often said she wanted to be reincarnated as a seagull. I believe these close encounters are her way of letting me know she is still there, watching over me, and being with me in our shared happy place.

Mama also comes to me in dreams sometimes. These aren’t just run of the mill dreams, like I have nightly. They are real-feeling interludes. Usually we are doing something mundane, like shopping, walking on the beach, or visiting family. The dreams are so real that I am crushed when I awaken and find she’s not there in the room with me. I long to fall back to sleep and pick up where the dream left off. Often things that happen in the dreams involve people and events that happened after my mom passed. These dreams give me hope that she knows her grandchildren, Christina Joan Cartner and Jacob Alexander Cartner, who were not privileged to know their Grandma Joan in life.

My Grandma, Mildred Cartner, was a close second to my mom when I counted my heroes. Of everyone I have ever known on Earth, she was the kindest, the most understanding, the most forgiving, the most Christian. To her, family always came first. And, to her, everyone she met became family. She taught me so many things by example. Her family was huge with ten kids, my aunts and uncles, who produced twenty children, my cousins, and I don’t even know how many grandchildren and great-grands. I loved being in her house, surrounded by Cartners, celebrating holidays or the odd Sunday when we could all gather there.

I cherished even more the times I got Grandma to myself. Usually I got to spend a week or two with her when school was out in the summertime and a week during Christmas break. She was so patient with my endless questions about her interesting life, about my deceased grandfather, Clayton, who I lost when I was five, and about my Dad’s childhood growing up in Harmony, North Carolina. The woman had an incredible memory and I loved pulling out the photo albums and listening to her stories about her childhood, her marriage, her children, her travels.

As I got older, I challenged her with questions about her character. I didn’t understand her incredible capacity for forgiveness. (My mother had not modeled that behavior for me. You did not want to cross her. She was the best friend you could ever have if you didn’t hurt her, disappoint her, or anger her. If you did, you were history. Period.) On the other hand, I would witness some one or other of my Grandma Cartner’s children (though she had four stepchildren, technically, she never used that word and I was not even aware they weren’t her biological children until I was ten or twelve and asked about a picture I found of my grandpa with his first wife) hurt her deeply, then watch it roll off her back. She always turned the other cheek. When I asked how she could possibly do that after witnessing one of the daughters hurt her feelings, she encouraged me to take a minute and consider the hurt those four children she had raised had experienced due to losing their birth mother so young (the kids ranged from eighteen days to seven years old when their mother died from complications related to the birth of her fourth child). Of course I had never thought of it from that perspective. Grandma raised all ten children as if she had given birth to them. There’s no way for me to know if they felt any different, or wondered what their life would have been like had their “real” mother been there. That day Grandma taught me to consider the perspective of whatever person I was dealing with before reacting or speaking. She taught me to have more compassion and empathy.

I don’t usually dream about Grandma, though I wish I did, so I was really surprised to have one of those real-feeling nighttime interludes with her last week. We were in her living room sitting in adjoining chairs like we used to, whiling away a Sunday afternoon alone together. I was down, recounting for her some of the struggles I’ve gone through, catching her up on my life since we last spoke in 1999. I lamented about how Covid had changed so much in our business and personal lives. I told her about personal challenges, losses, hurts. She didn’t have a lot to say. She was always a world class listener.

When I slowed down, she smiled at me and asked, “You know how you have always loved chimes?”

“Uhhhhh … yeah? I have nearly a dozen sets surrounding the outside of my house and solar operated ones on the kitchen window sill.” I said, baffled by the question.

“What is it that you like about them? What makes them beautiful?” she asked.

“The wind. The way they sound when a breeze hits them,” I answered.

“Exactly,” she said. “A life without troubles is like a set of chimes without wind. Without the challenges, without the storms, you wouldn’t appreciate your blessings. Try to concentrate on the beauty that comes out of the storm, Robin. See the silver linings and you will be happier.”

I woke up stunned. The analogy is not something I had ever thought of on my own. I am convinced my Grandma Cartner came to me in that dream to deliver another of her life lessons; one I really needed to hear. I felt blessed by her knowledge and insight. The life experience she shared with me when she was alive and that I have missed so much since she died was gifted to me once again in the dream. I awoke and immediately said a prayer of thanksgiving for the opportunity to learn at her knee again.

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