When I was 16 and visiting my Grandmother, a beautiful and graceful woman I admired and hoped someday to measure up to, I read this short piece in her home. She had it framed in her living room, and it spoke to me so strongly that I copied it out into one of my always handy spiral notebooks.

I’ve been purging my house and garage over the last year, and one of my projects has been to scan in documents, old papers, and pictures. It’s slow going, but I feel a measure of success with each armful I get to dump in the recycling bin. Imagine my surprise when I came across the quote I’d painstakingly written out so long ago. The notebook is long gone (I hope. I think I had some serious crushing going on for a boy I knew and some very embarrassing poetry in that particular notebook), but this one piece of paper has stayed with me, in both the physical realm and in the spiritual. I feel even more inspired by the words now than I did over, yegawds, almost three decades ago.

“After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul. And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning and company doesn’t mean security. And you begin to understand that kisses aren’t contracts, and presents aren’t promises. And you begin to accept your defeats with your head held high and your eyes open, with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.

“You learn to build your roads on today, because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain and futures have a way of falling down in midflight. After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much.

“So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure, that you really are strong. And that you really do have worth and that you keep learning.

“With every goodbye you learn.”

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