A Prism of Inner Beauty

Photo courtesy of Aluminousgift.com

by guest blogger Renee A. James, essayist and blogger

The beautiful, confounding, and kind of miraculous thing about bright white light is that it’s nothing of the kind. The gorgeous, soft spectrum of color that emerges when a ray of light passes through a crystal prism is so simple but so spectacular. What feels straightforward is complex. What looks obvious is layered. The expected becomes surprising.

With each bit of sunshine that passes through it or reflects off one of its many facets, the crystal prism that adorns my eastern kitchen window reminds me of one simple fact: Not everything is entirely what it appears to be.

When I think of the people I’ve loved in this life and lost—people like my mom, who will always be one of the strongest women I’ve ever known—I begin to realize they are exactly like a prism when it catches the light. To the world, to family and friends, and especially to her children, my mother felt solid and straightforward, obvious and expected. But only now that she’s gone do I see her as a prism of light and begin to acknowledge and appreciate her complexity, her nuance. Only now am I discovering the layers that made up the whole—layers that remained mostly unseen and emerged only very occasionally at just the right time and then were gone. Just like those prism rainbows. Layers that were just that beautiful.

I sip my coffee and watch the colors move across the table in the morning. They speak quietly, gently reminding me that what enters one side of a prism looks and feels quite different from what emerges on the other. Despite their soft edges, they almost demand that I acknowledge their layers. And whenever I do, I seem to uncover a few of my own, and welcome them. I find myself forgiving my mother’s mistakes. I look beyond her baffling silence about so many things that are now left forever unanswered. I’m somehow able to reconcile myself to being unaware of her untold secrets and private pain. I think about the reality of my mother’s life and understand now that even in the one of the most intimate of relationships, mother and daughter, not everything is seen, and that revelations come in their own time, not always in ours.

I celebrate the beauty in the crystal ornament. I lose myself in the reflections, the sparkle, the quiet elegance of the piece, and hear a voice as I do: “Be at peace. I’m here, in you and around you; look for me. I know there are surprising, complex, sometimes hidden, even confounding layers within all of us that look one way to the world but quite another when you catch them in just the right light. And I’ll love yours forever.”

Me too, Mom.

Renee A. James works at Rodale Inc. and also wrote an award-winning op-ed column for The Morning Call, the Allentown, PA, newspaper, for almost 10 years. Her essays were included in the humor anthology,101 Damnations’: A Humorists’ Tour of Personal Hells(Thomas Dunne Books, 2002), and are also found online at Jewish World Review and The Daily Caller. Her blog, It’s Not Me, It’s You, addresses topics that mystify her on a regular basis.


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9 Responses to A Prism of Inner Beauty

  1. Sadhvi August 9, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    What a beautfully written post. As a woman who still has her mother with her, I am more and more aware of how the time that I have with her is precious. As it is with everyone and everything. As a fellow blogger, thanks for taking the time to share.

  2. James Early August 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    This is a very touching piece. It helped me look at my mother, who passed on about 13 years ago, in a whole new light. Thanks so much for sharing your insights.

  3. Cindy Ratzlaff August 9, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    I loved reading your heartfelt piece and it made my heart ache too. I feel that way when I think about my Dad and when I catch a glimpse of something he would have loved. Thank you!

  4. Gina Jones August 9, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    Beautifully written with so much love and insight. You put into words which I never could. Ardie gave me crystals when my mother and husband died. They hang in my kitchen window and every day I look at them, think of my loved ones and the incredible woman who gave them to me. It was only after my mother died that I came to understand so many things about her and some I will never know. That’s okay. But most importantly I am wrapped in their love forever. Thank you, Renee.

  5. Renee August 12, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Once again, I’m touched and honored to know that these words have resonated with the experiences of others. Thank you very much for sharing your own stories. Different stages for everyone – from Sadhvi who is acknowledging life’s precious moments, to James who is 13 years past his own loss and reconciling it “in a new light,” to Cindy and Gina, who are taking some comfort in memories and unending love. Thank you all, so much.
    Deeply appreciated.

  6. Donna in Delaware August 14, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    Ditto, Renee, as always.

  7. Mullein August 14, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Thank you, Renee.

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