My grandmother used to ask what I would like of hers after she died. She was determined to leave each of her grandchildren something to remember her by so she was always asking from even my earliest childhood. I wanted something impossible.

I wanted perfect spring days and our talks on her screened in porch over iced tea as we watched the birds flitting about the fountain in the garden, petted her dogs (there were never fewer than three) laying at our feet, and the occasional graces of the cats wandering in and out to see if there was a bird or a lizard they might be able to catch.

I have come to believe that porch exists in my heaven, and it’s always a fine spring day with birds chirping about and cats hoping for prey while dogs are cradled at my grandmother’s feet. She is young once more, and she always has fine company and new stories to tell. One day I will visit her there again.

As the mysteries of the afterlife were not on the table as things my grandmother might leave me, I asked for the framed poem that hung outside her bedroom. I remember reading it the first time. The peace that came over me was mystical. I asked her about it, and she told me of a trip she took to Baltimore ages before. She liked the poem and purchased it from the gift shop of some ancient, historical church. Whether or not the words of this poem had the same profound effect on her as it did on me, I do not know. Perhaps, she never needed these words and they were already part of her soul.

My grandmother left this world four years ago.  The poem, still in its original frame, dingy with age, now sits above my writing desk. When the world tosses and turns me in its fury, these words restore me and calm me.  This is what keeps me going until I find those perfect spring afternoons with my kindly grandmother in the fullness of eternity.

This week started stormy in my head, full of worry and doubt, and ended with me returning to the peace I find in these words.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

3 thoughts

    1. Yes. Notice in the frame, it claims to be dated 1692 and found in Old Saint Paul’s church. My grandmother was quite confused that this was what I wanted. She just thought it nice and bought it at the gift shop. I did not find out about Max Ehrmann until the advent of the Internet, and the age of the poem never dampened my love for the wisdom in the words.


  1. “But do not distress yourself with imaginings.”

    THIS is why I like to write. It keeps my paranoia at bay.

    What a beautiful poem and what a beautiful way to remember your grandmother.


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