• Casey McKinley

The old lady and the mirror

A little old lady sat alone at the edge of her bed.

Just as she had done every year on her birthday, she pulled a worn red satin pouch from her nightstand and set it on her lap. She paused momentarily and took in a deep breath before sliding out an old ornate hand mirror.

Gazing into her reflection, the woman began to sob. After all these years, she finally understood the mysterious power the mirror held. Like water being poured into a glass of crushed ice, the realization filled the nooks and crannies of her being.

Guiding her hand back into the pouch to return the mirror, her hand emerged with another object -- a very old birthday card. She grinned from ear to ear as she looked at it.

She had received the card, along with the mirror, a lifetime ago on her 10th birthday. She opened the card and read the message:

My Dearest Granddaughter,

I'm so excited for the long and beautiful life that you have ahead of you.

This mirror has been my most treasured possession. It holds a special power. It is my sincerest hope that one day it brings you the same joy as it has brought to me.

Only you have the ability to uncover the truth that it reveals. Regrettably, this will likely take some time, but it will be well worth the wait.

With love always,


It had been years since the old lady had read the message. She was filled with memories of the journeys that she and this red pouch had taken through the years.

As a young girl, she had been absolutely enchanted by the mirror, gazing at her reflection constantly. During those years, she could see herself clearly reflected in the middle with small images of the things she loved most sprinkled around the sides like a beautiful border. Things like her grandmother, her parents and Elenor, her prized stuffed elephant.

As she moved through her high school years, she still used the mirror each day. However, by that time it had lost most of its charm and was far less practical than it had once been. It had become increasingly difficult to see her reflection in the center as the surrounding images were becoming more numerous and were seeping in from the edges. The images now were mostly of her friends, enemies, crushes, school work and her photography.

As she moved through adulthood, the mirror had become an annoyance of sorts. It no longer had any practical use, as the images that had once been isolated to the border now took up the entire surface and completely crowded out her reflection. Gazing into the mirror had become a deeply overwhelming chore. She was bombarded with a collage of stressful images that mainly fell into two buckets, the crushing responsibilities of the day and the worries about the future.

It was during this period that the old lady had no choice but to relegate the mirror into the recesses of her nightstand, deciding to gaze into its reflection once a year on her birthday. She had created this ritual more out of reverence for her grandmother than out of any hope of uncovering the mirror's truth.

Sometime around midlife, she couldn't remember exactly when, the old lady discovered that space was beginning to open up in the center of the mirror. Year after year, the images steadily retreated to their original space along the borders.

On her birthday last year, she was able to see her reflection clearly in the middle with the images making a simple border along the edges, just like they had when she was a little girl. Even more pleasing was the reemergence of images of things that she most adored. Things like her husband, her children and her grandchildren.

This past year had been the hardest of her life. While life had never been easy, nothing could prepare her for losing the love of her life. As she waded through sorrow and grief that seemed to have no end, the old lady transformed into something different, something unexplainably stronger. It was this process that opened up the possibility to see the truth for the first time in her life. A truth that had been there all along.

She now understood the mirror's special power. It reflected back to her the image of what she thought she was.

In the early years, she had been focused on building her life into something important, something that she was proud of. As she did, the mirror's surface became increasingly crowded and overwhelming. There had been a period of years where she wasn't able to see even a tiny glimpse of her own reflection. She had been forgotten behind all of the noise.

In the later years, her life's focus shifted to release. She let go of some things intentionally, like the freedom of knowing she didn't need this thing or that. But much of it was forced on her. Like her beauty, all things fade eventually.

When she looked in the mirror this year, she saw nothing but a reflection of herself. The same reflection she'd see in any other mirror, only slightly different. Defying her age, she was somehow brighter and more vibrant.

It was in this moment that she realized that the image in the mirror is all she is.

Emptied of everything else, for this first time in her life, the old lady felt complete.

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