This story came to me from an aristocratic lady from the past, not from Britain. She came to me in meditation when I asked for help for a lady who was well off in the material sense but who was feeling depressed and upset by loss of her now grown up children.
The Empty Nest
My role in life was to oversee the rearing of my family. This I thoroughly enjoyed. I had five children whom I adored. There was a daughter and four sons. I ensured that their every need was catered for. In our household we were blessed. I had all the help I needed, all the money, food and clothing befitting a woman and a family of high standing. I oversaw the education of my children. I employed their tutors and made it my business to ensure that they learned what they needed to know in their lives.
One by one they grew up and left the family home to make their own mark in the world. My husband was busy with affairs of state. He did not notice the emptiness that had somehow filled every waking moment in my life. My reasons for living had all departed. Even my daughter had been drawn into the bosom of her husband’s family. She no longer needed her mother. My sons needed to assert their manhood. They no longer wanted a mother to check that all was as it should be. I felt as if someone had taken the reigns out of my hands and my horses had all fled in different directions, excitedly sniffing the new air, away from their homeland. Their charioteer was left sitting in an empty chariot all alone, un-needed and unwanted.
When they did come back they were so full of tales of their own lives that they hardly noticed me. Indeed they became irritated if I asked them if they were taking care of themselves.
“Of course we are, Mother, you trained us well. Please do not fret over us!”
My husband was at a loss as to know how to lift me out of the pit I was in. His life was so full and busy, he could not imagine how it was for me without my family around me. No-one needed me.
One day my favourite maid came into my room. I had taken to resting in my bed later and later in the mornings as I could not think of what else to do. The maid looked distressed. Even in my self absorbed state I was able to notice that. I called her over to my bedside.
“What is the matter, Silome, are you unwell?”
“No Madame, it is not I who is unwell, but my brother.”
She went on to tell me how her brother had fallen off the roof of a house he was building. He could not work and his family were going hungry. My maid was trying to help him, but he had three children and she had little to give.
“Dry your tears, Silome, perhaps something can be done.”
“No , Madame, you must not concern yourself with my life. You are unwell yourself. I cannot burden you with my problems.”
“Silome, it could be that your problems could solve my problems. I have become too insular. I have not looked outside into the world. I have forgotten that others need help and support. I remember my mother telling me ‘It is in giving that we receive.” Now at last I can see the truth of it. I gave my all to my family and I received their love and appreciation. Now they have gone and I cannot give any more. But now I hear of your brother and no doubt there are others like him. I must discover in what ways I can give. I must learn to give in different ways, be it through charitable works, through kindness, advice or material help. I must seek others who also need to learn to give. In my life it has been laudable to take and to give. I have taken help from the servants, from the beauticians, from the clothiers, but the giving back to them has been empty of love. It is a mere exchange of money. I know now that I need to give with my heart.
I love you Silome as my most trusted maid, and it pains me to think of your brother’s family suffering. Let us see what can be done, my dear.”
From that moment my life changed. I regained a sense of purpose. It took a while to learn how to give appropriately and with whom to develop my new skills of openness and sharing. But I did learn and my family sees a new side to their mother and are again learning an important lesson from me:
“ It is more blessed to give than it is to receive.”