The Elephant Cloud


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Grace Palmer Oct. 1, 1920 – Jan. 20, 2010

January 20th, 2010 by · 7 Comments · Africa, Tanzania

My grandmothers house was immaculate and full of treats, but not too many, just always the right amount. The lawn was always mowed and we tore divots playing outdoors on summer afternoons. There were bedrooms for me and my sister and beds made up snug and tight without so much as a wrinkle. She kept us well fed and polite and the carpets were always clean for us to lay and play games on. At my grandmothers house, I felt safe, clean, and at peace.

In the room I stayed was a desk so full of stationary that I thought I won the Hallmark lottery. There were so many different sizes and colors and pens for every occasion and under her watch I drew to my hearts content. I received many letters and cards on that stationary, always assured by her pen that she loved me, heart and soul.

Experiencing peacefulness is a gift from my grandmother and a cornerstone of who I am. In this calamitous world full of uncertainty, one truth I could count on was that my grandmother loved me, heart and soul.

When I would see my grandmother over the last couple years, she always held my hand and recharged our bond. As I travel this world, I find peace imagining I am holding her hand and experiencing it with her. Finding her a postcard or composing little notes or even going somewhere on her behalf. In the Vatican City, standing in Saint Peters Cathedral, it was by thinking of my grandmother that made the experience more valuable. I believed she would appreciate walking those halls and that made me cherish it more. I looked more closely on her behalf and I felt peace.

In the forested hills outside Istanbul stands a modest home where Mary, mother of Jesus, was brought and looked after by one of the disciples of her slain son. Years ago, on a particularly warm autumn afternoon, I found myself with a rare moment alone in the room in which she prayed. In that magical context of history, as one is encouraged to do, I found myself speaking aloud to Mary. Hi Mary, I’m Jay, you probably don’t know me, I live really far away and have been a bit busy lately, but… but what I found myself settling into was a word or two about my grandmother and how it was for her that I made the trip to these hills and this home and that I thought Mary should really hear about her because I love her heart and soul.

I think my grandmother and I have different views on heaven, but I am sure she has found hers and I hope that Mary remembers my visit. As for me, I will continue to travel this world, carrying memories of loved ones with me, carrying her memory with me. I believe the soul is the memory of someone you love. And so I will recall her memory and let it enrich my experiences as it remains with me, her soul, in my heaven.


  • April 10th, 2010 by mom

    Jay, This is coming late as I just viewed it while going through your travels, but , I want to say it was a beautiful tribute to your grandmother.
    Grandmothers love their grandchildren as much as they love their children and I know she would have been smiling and crying had she been able to read your words.

  • February 18th, 2010 by gailanne

    I didn’t realize i could submit a comment! this is like talking to Oprah! ha ha – seriously, I was so proud when R. Linda read your letter re Grammy – it was almost like having you there! you and Sarah Libby were both amazing and gave Grammy such appropriate amazing tributes, and from different perspectives and yet so much the same! She truly was one of the most amazing women i will ever know, and I miss her so much! How lucky we all were to be a part of her life and she, ours! Now she is with Grampa, probably back to getting him a dish of ice cream every night! Be safe and god bless you and Darlene – guess you will have to come see us in Houston as we will be moving from New Orelans sometime in May – :( love, aunt gailanne

  • February 16th, 2010 by Anonymous

    I was very moved to the thoughts that jay has for his grandmother. It should make us all remember our loved ones and what they mean’t to us. No one is guaranteed a tomorrow, So live for today and appreciate one another. Many blessing to you both jay and darlene.

  • February 10th, 2010 by Dianne / Mom

    Jay, You are right about her peacefulness, she was such a loving, kind person. I’m grateful for those special times you held her hand, had conversations, sent special letters, notes, drawings, emails and postcards. Did you know she saved every single one of them?
    She loved you “heart and soul”; and I do too !

  • February 9th, 2010 by Darlene Nastansky

    So lucky to be traveling the world with my Jay; this beautiful story is another example of his wonderful soul…
    Crazy in love I am.

  • February 8th, 2010 by Jennie

    Oh Mr. Lay I am sorry to hear about your grandmother. What a lovely tribute. I’m sure she’s watching over you right now….

  • February 8th, 2010 by Becca

    Wow Jay, that was really beautiful. Brought tears to my eyes. Sounds like she was a wonderful woman. I love that you will carry her with you on all your travels. What a peaceful, enriching thought. 10.1.20 – 1.20.10. The dates of the beginning of her life and the end have the same numbers – how cool is that!?

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