Saturday, May 9, 2015

What Lasts

My grandmother lived on the opposite side of the city from my family but every Sunday, we would walk to her house.  And every Sunday we would walk home laden with food from her kitchen or flowers from her garden. A tiny immigrant woman, widowed young, with no education or English, my grandmother would reach into a sock she kept in a kitchen cabinet and pull out a quarter for me. She grew wheat in her little garden so I would know where bread came from.

Her daughter, my mother, was the eldest of seven children. I am her youngest child and only daughter. She completed the eighth grade and quit school to help support the family. She raised three boys and me, was also widowed young, and lived until she was nearly 100.  

In my turn, I married and had two daughters, both of whom are now mothers also. From this vantage point in life, I think I have a better understanding of immortality than any philosopher or theologian. For in my daughters, I see all the love that was poured into me by my mother and grandmother now being lavished on my grandchildren.

Of my four grandchildren, the youngest presents my daughter with daily challenges.  He has a rare genetic disorder and must be fed small amounts very frequently.  Common infant episodes of spitting up or fevers are for him, life threatening. Though I saw in this daughter admirable mothering skills with her older two children, both healthy girls, I stand in awe of her ability to face each day though exhausted, with hope and great love.  Her children are well adjusted and well behaved.  She has sacrificed more than the casual observer will ever know for her family. Her beautiful brown hair is flecked with grey and her eyes are deeply lined.  

My other daughter, too, has a son.  She is a modern woman with a career and I see her struggle to find balance and somehow she always does.  In both daughters I see my own mother and grandmother reflected.  I see it in their hands as they brush back a stray lock of hair from their child, or in the care they take as they chop favorite foods into bite-size bits for their little ones.  I see my own mothering improved in them.  And I suspect that could I go back to my grandmother's mother or to her grandmother, I would see the same love and care and willingness to do without as I see in my daughters.  

My grandmother is gone more than 50 years now and my mother almost eight years but the very best of them lives on in my daughters and will continue in their children for generations to come. Love outlasts death.  Love lasts.

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