The Best of Life’s Learnings are Not at School, Just Ask Your Elders

hands of an old woman

My Grandmother passed away just before Mother’s Day – the last of my grandparents, which is a sad loss. It was difficult to observe her final months as dementia and old age deteriorated her mind and her body. She was 91.

It so happened that I was invited to be a guest speaker at the local Death Café for a date that ended up being the day after my Gran’s passing. My topic was ‘Spirituality in End-of-Life Care’, and I recently shared a blog post which summarised some of that talk. Researching the topic at the same time as being a part of Gran’s palliative journey brought some interesting and powerful reflections that might not have happened if these events hadn’t intersected in the way that they did. I love such serendipities.

Some of my fondest memories of Gran are when we would go for walks into the bush near her home. She would point out the many different types of native flora – donkey orchids, trigger plants, egg and bacon bushes, grass trees (which we called Black Boys back then), and the different types of gum trees. We would hunt for insects, imagine shapes in clouds and that fallen trees were dinosaurs. I’d see her feed the magpies and kookaburras that came knocking at her back window.

I have no memories of Grandma discussing God and she certainly wasn’t a religious woman. But as I postulated ‘what is spirituality?’ for my Death Café talk, I came to realise just how Gran had shaped my own spirituality.

When I am in need of a spiritual experience, I love to take time in nature. The weekend before she passed, my family and I visited Golden Valley Tree Park in Balingup. I wandered around becoming acquainted with the different types of oak trees, taking my shoes off to kick through the piles of autumn leaves that they had shed and collecting acorns. I found a ladybug on the branch of a golden elm. This is my mindfulness practice, and Gran was my first instructor. Grandma’s walks were my first lessons in biology, and I haven’t stopped learning ever since.

Through Gran, I discovered the ritual of a cup of tea, the satisfaction that comes from being of service to others, the importance of family, and delighting in the simplest of joys. She shaped me, and, in particular, my spirituality, perhaps more than anyone else. Gran was not a ‘learned person’, and certainly not an academic (in fact, she hated school as a child); but she brought to me some of my most important education, including how to connect to my Highest Self and Oneness.

In Gran’s final months, it was my turn to bring the cups of tea. I led her around the garden; sometimes she could walk, and sometimes I pushed her wheelchair. I helped her to recall the names of the plants, pinching parts to look at more closely, to feel the texture of and to smell. What a privilege to share those moments. It is a gentle reminder to slow down, to find wonder in the small things, and to connect with our elders as our greatest teachers.



Author: Rebecca Tichbon

Rebecca Dyson Tichbon is a qualified Medical Scientist, Aromatherapist, educator and facilitator, Life Coach and dance teacher. Beck is passionate about women’s wellbeing and finds fulfilment in supporting others on their wellbeing pathway through her all of her work. She shares about her own journey in her best-selling book, Using Essential Oils for Emotional Management. Beck manages to successfully straddle with worlds of science and woo-woo, bringing a sense of magic to her scientifically-researched therapies and teachings.

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