“The Spring-Green Persistence of Life,” March 31, 2015

For me, two of the loveliest words in the English language are “Life persists.”

I happened on them years ago as a college freshman, sitting in the library on a gorgeous spring day, bored spitless, working on a history paper. I don’t recall what I was researching. Funny, isn’t it, the things we find while looking for something else?

Out of nowhere, those two words came dancing off the page in a quote by Gandhi from his essay “On God”: “In the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists.”

Suddenly I wasn’t bored any more. I reread those words a dozen times. Then I closed the book and left the library.

Outside in dazzling sunshine, I kicked off my Weejuns and danced barefoot across a spring-green lawn back to the dorm to call my granddad.

A man of many talents, and the father of 12 children, he’d been a baker, a shoe salesman, a restaurateur and a sometime Baptist preacher, who, as my grandmother liked to say, “worked for the Lord when he couldn’t get a paying job.”

Growing up, I loved to talk with him about what he called “the things of God.” I was pretty sure the Gandhi quote fit that category, and I couldn’t wait to hear what he’d think of it. He was a mite hard of hearing, so I had to repeat it a few times, but once he got it, he laughed.

“All I can say to that,” he said, “is amen and amen and amen.”

We talked for a while about other things, my schooling, his checker playing, the weather. I told him how glad I was, after a long winter, to finally see spring and especially to find that quote.

“Why is that?” he asked.

I was feeling all full of myself, a big college freshman, so I said, “Well, spring is a sure sign that, like the quote says, life persists. And it just makes me happy.”

He chuckled again, the way you might laugh at a slow-witted dog that finally learns to sit up and beg for a bone.

Then, in his lovely baritone preacher’s voice, he recited just for me his favorite “springtime” verse, words from the prophet Isaiah: “The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose … even with joy and singing.”

My granddad. I wish you could’ve known him.

I told you all of that to tell you this. I love spring. And this year, I was especially hungry to see it.

Maybe you were, too.

Flying home last weekend to Las Vegas, after 10 days in California, I looked down on hills that were so very green I could almost taste them. Nearing Vegas, the green turned a drab desert brown. We landed after sunset, and the only green to be seen was neon.

But the next morning, to my surprise, I awoke to find signs of spring all over my yard. In my absence, all sorts of things had sprouted and leafed and budded and bloomed. I’d tell you their names, but I’m sorry, I don’t know them. I just call them Lucy or Ethel or Fred.

Three days later, my husband and I drove to Scottsdale, Ariz., to visit a friend and get yet another taste of spring seeing the Giants play the A’s in spring training.

The drive across the desert was flat-out spectacular, a profusion of wildflowers and blooming cactus. I could almost hear my granddad laughing, “The desert shall rejoice.”

Sometimes we need to be reminded that we’re still alive. After my first husband died, a friend sent me a card that made me want to kick off my shoes and dance barefoot on the grass. It read, “Just when you think you will never smile again, life comes back.”

Life persists, and so do we, in the green of spring and the dead of winter; in the birth of a child and the passing of a loved one; in the words we leave behind and the hearts of those who’ll remember us.

Spring reminds us that we’re alive forever.

Amen and amen and amen.

Comments

  1. Donna Hill says:

    So love your column. I’ve gleaned so much from them. Your common sense approach to life and weaving in your personal story cause me to cut out the columns to share with others. My granddaughter in her teen years is learning from you in ways I cannot express. She needs to know that today is not the end but the beginning of a long life full of ups and downs and she will make it through. I can tell her that but somehow when she hears how someone else has weathered the storm it has more impact. I’ve already cut out today’s column to give her to continue to reinforce a belief that she can dust herself off and forge ahead in spite of her current life challenges

  2. Phillis Kelly says:

    Sharon, I enjoyed “Life persists.” Last August I wrote to you from my mother’s hospice room about how much she had enjoyed your column for years and how similar she was to your grandmother.. This spring my daughter penned a facebook post about her grandmother, “This time of year was when Granny would thaw her bones, put down her crochet needles, start mowing her lawn too early, and daydream with her garden seed catalog. Springtime gave her purpose. She is missed.” You express universal truths so well. I am glad for springtime and life for all our families and all our generations. Phillis

  3. Helen Fallon says:

    Just loved your spring returns column. It came at the right time — just one month after my mother’s death. She was a huge fan of your column (read it in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) and newspapers. Thank you for the much-needed message. And rest assured she would have been thrilled that it came from you, one of her favorite writers. Best always!

    • Sharon Randall says:

      Helen, thank you for your kind note. I am sorry you lost your mother. Please know that my heart goes out to you. I trust that in years to come you’ll have many wonderful memories to make you smile, time and again.
      Wishing you grace and peace,
      Sharon

  4. shashi says:

    Thank u Sharon . It was long winter this year even longer than last year when we got million tons of snow in Eastern part of US . Why we wait for spring ? It will not last forever, again winter would be there ,making us shiver in bed ,every where in the house even with heat on . But we experience life and feel more alive when spring comes . And it is extra delicious after reading such a welcoming column from you . Sharon you are my inspiration and I always read your column same day . I do not know how I missed it this week . Yes ,we had not experienced spring yet . Cold ,chilly wind outside ,even at home I am cold and writing with full winter clothes on to feel little more warmth though I can feel some extra comfort from words written by you . God bless you always !! Love

  5. Maria says:

    I love April! Married in April, first born in April…I love how the Earth smiles with flowers in Spring…
    Lovely time to be reminded….how blessed we are:}

  6. Amen! Amen! Amen! Indeed!

    Thank you for the inspiration, again.

    Happy Easter!

    Bruce

  7. Debby says:

    Oh, thank God for Sharon!! I’ll bet I’m not the only one that thought that when I read her piece (for the fourth time) today. There are some days that my only sane thought is “Dear Jesus! I really need me some Sharon Randall today!!” …. sometimes the language is a little spicier, I must admit. Nobody can help me line the books back up on the shelves in my brain like you do, Sharon. You’re better than a stiff gin & tonic!!

  8. Sandy Schading says:

    I want you to know that I loved your “Life persists” column. It expressed so many of my feelings about the first grand and glorious Spring day we had here today in the Finger Lakes of NY. I’ve been reading your column for years in the “Finger Lakes Times” where my handsome son Chuck is the managing editor. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and life events with us. I was traveling by plane last week and I thought of you, just wishing you would sit down next to me to fire up a conversation about life, kids and love. Instead I sat next to a man who didn’t want to talk….but I had an imaginary conversation with you anyway. If you ever come to the Finger Lakes, look us up……….happy Spring!!!

  9. Trudy Karl says:

    Love, love, love this, Sharon. Jessica shared it with me, and it rings true for me, also.
    *smiling*

  10. Pam Dozier says:

    Sharon, thanks for this great reminder. Although my yard is a wreck, the wisteria is in full bloom and smells heavenly. Although my grandsons are teenagers, they haven’t un-friended me on Facebook. Although I’m likely to kill myself, I’ll head to the attic tomorrow and bring down all the Easter stuff. Life persists. Thank God for the opportunity to make more memories.

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