There are times, aren't there, when we wonder why things happen? Times when we could wish that things would not change -- would stay the same. Although I can not always see it at the time, I have come to realize that it is the changes that gives value to what happens to us.
Years ago, someone told me a story about the "tapestry of life". It is a story that made an impact on me, and I would like to share it with you.
It is the story of an old woman who sat in the doorway of her cottage with a piece of cloth so large that it spread across her lap, over the arms of the chair, onto the floor and out along the garden path.
One day, a young man was walking by and noticed her working on the cloth with a needle and thread. He marveled at the expanse of bright patterns, and the multitude of textures. He walked up the path, past the trailing ends of the cloth, to where the woman sat. After passing the time of day with her, he commented on her work and asked her to explain what the item was for, and why the furthest part of the cloth was light and bright, while the middle was flecked with dark patches, and her most recent work included gold and silver threads.
She took a moment to lift her eyes and scan her work, and then, in soft tones, she confided to the man that the tapestry was her life. The beginning, now so far away that her old eyes could barely see it, had been a happy time, full of the comfort of family life and without concern. As time passed and she became a young woman, she had been through some uncomfortable times. She had lost her beloved father. Life had been hard for the family, and things would never be quite the same again. She had fallen in love and married a local man, and borne him children, and together they had nursed them and watched over them through schooling and out into the world to start their own lives. Eventually she had seen her husband buried after a long illness, and now she was alone with her tapestry.
As for its purpose, she was unable to say.
She threaded her needle with a strand of gold thread, and resumed her work, lifting it close to her failing eyes.
As the old woman fell silent, the young man's gaze followed the fall of the cloth. He could see a sudden change in colour and texture marked by lines of black and dark brown, where the child had moved from innocence and play, to be touched by tragedy and made to assume the responsibilities of an adult. He could see the misshapen patches of deep purple and dark green amongst larger patches of the brightest reds and blues, showing the times when worry and joy jostled and competed for her attention. And he saw the rewards and memories woven in with silver and gold threads.
He saw, too, how the tapestry would not have caught his eye, would not be remarkable, without the dark threads, how those dark threads highlighted the brighter ones, and how much more precious the whole thing was because of the silver and gold.
He wondered how much more work there would be for the old woman before the tapestry was complete, and he wondered about his own. Would it be as interesting? As colourful? And what would be its purpose?
He took his leave of the old woman and thanked her, not sure if she heard him. As he continued on his way his thoughts about the tapestry faded and were replaced with the delights of a beautiful day and the anticipation of his journey's end.
Yet, many times during his life to come he would remember his visit to the old lady, and in his mind he would add a few threads to his tapestry.