the janitor of enlightenment
I remember meeting my Grandpa Weeks for the first time when I was around five years old. My grandparents lived in Mantua, Ohio, and my family lived in Los Angeles, so I only saw them a few times over the course of their lifetimes.
Grandpa walked straight up to me with a big grin and said, "What's that? You've got something behind your ear!" He reached around behind my ear with his strong, rugged hand, and pulled out a shiny quarter! My Grandpa was magic! He handed me the quarter and gave me a hug, and I fell completely and totally in love with his beautiful, gentle soul.
Another time, when we visited my grandparents in Ohio, Grandpa reached up into the tall tree we were standing under, and picked a white berry that looked something like a blackberry, but was at least twice as big. He handed it to me and told me to eat it. I was uncertain, so he popped one into his mouth to show me it was safe to eat. The smile on his face as he savored that berry was all I needed to convince me to do the same. As I bit into the berry, a sugary sweet juice filled my mouth. I had never tasted anything so incredibly delicious in my life. He said that it was a mulberry. I looked up, and the tree was filled with them. The branches were high, so I had to jump to pick the berries, which I did until my tummy was stuffed full.
Grandpa was not a rich man. He worked most of his life as a janitor at a local elementary school. Out of necessity, he raised chickens for eggs and meat, planted fruit trees, and had a vegetable garden. He and my Grandma were deeply in love, and shared a fierce love for my mom, their adopted daughter, Lisa, who could do no wrong in their eyes.
When my Grandpa was in the hospital after falling off a ladder while picking cherries, I wrote him a long letter of love and appreciation. Unfortunately, he passed away before he had a chance to read it. Instead, my Mom told me that it was read at his memorial, which was little consolation to a nine year old girl who did not understand death.
Many years after my Grandpa passed away, I visited my Grandma. As I rummaged around in her attic storage I found a large cedar chest and opened it. It was filled to brim with hundreds of Valentine cards that had been given to my Grandpa by the elementary school children. Every single card had a hand written note of love and gratitude for this gentle soul who had proudly cleaned their bathrooms, emptied their trash cans, and all the while touched their lives with his kind heart.
Eight years after his death, Grandpa's spirit visited me in the middle of the night as an egg shaped, radiant white form. White light filled the room, and I was wrapped in his love. I asked him if it hurts to die. He drew me into his deep personal wisdom and said, "No, Summer. It doesn't hurt to die." I never feared death from that day forward.
So many people race around looking for enlightenment through classes, meditation, religious studies, and more. They try so hard to do the "right" things, saving for retirement, climbing social ladders, having the perfect family and children, etc.
There's certainly nothing wrong with any of those things. But, having known my Grandpa, who was dirt poor, had a fifth grade education, and never complained about anything, I believe the path to enlightenment is simple. It comes from pulling a quarter out from behind a child's ear, cleaning toilets, emptying trash cans with a smile, and sharing sweet mulberries with someone you love.
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