Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Great Grandma Ruth

My great grandma Ruth passed away a few months ago. I mentioned it briefly when every thing was happening, but I hadn't really had the time to wrap my mind around it. It didn't come as a shock; my grandmother had been getting progressively worse in her ailments, including some bad falls. She had put her house up for sale, although I found out about this way after the fact. She didn't wait very long before packing everything up and moving down south with my great aunt. It struck a chord with me then, just as it does thinking about it now. It seemed to me that she knew intuitively that her time here was drawing to a close. I think that's the best comfort I have. She knew and I'm hoping that she spent a lot of quiet time with God before he came to take her Home. After a good, long life, I think that's the best gift any of us can be given, especially those of us who haven't given our lives completely over to Christ. I hope to see her again, sooner or later.

Unfortunately for me, my parents have never been very interested in preserving and passing on family history. My grandmother had an extensive collection of photo albums that spanned several decades with pictures of all of her descendents. I couldn't tell you who half of them are. It makes me feel orphaned, to an extent, because I don't know my own history and ancestry. I don't know my own (extended) family. It is partially my fault because I didn't ask enough. But I always felt uncomfortable asking who someone was when I was expected to know and remember  them, especially if there was other family close by, listening in. And somehow, there always was.

While my grandmother's hearing wasn't perfect, her mind and memory were as sharp as ever. I definitely regret not getting to ask her every question I had. But most of my questions didn't come until adulthood and I didn't feel I had been close enough to her for long enough to be able to ask the kind of questions I really wanted answers to. For most of them, this was probably true, and to my credit, I had been trying to build up trust, confidence and friendship over the last few years by visiting and writing her letters. I was touched to see that she had kept them all. And while I did get to delve into her fascinating past on a couple occasions, there were always distractions (my daughters always came with me) and time was always cut too short. Over the last year my letters and visits became almost nonexistant due to school, work, and the chaos of daily life. I hope she knew then how much I loved her even though I didn't show it as much as I wanted to.

The question I find myself wishing I'd asked was one of faith. I wish I knew with confidence where she was headed. I don't know why I always felt an obligation to be politically correct; I cannot pinpoint a specific lesson in my childhood to be sensible of accidentally offending someone. However, that sensitivity has lead to walls where there should be openness, and a consciousness of things that, in a perfect world, would garner no notice, no question at all. I'm working, slowly, at learning to tear down my own walls, in the hope of being able to tear down others as well. Not only was I left with the tortured feeling of not having the slightest inclination of where my grandmother was, but it also brought to light how little she could have known me, for all the things I was afraid to say to her. I wish I had been raised the way my daughters are- Ella recently initiated Grace over lunch at her 5th birthday party. Of the 7 kids seated around our table, the only other one to hear her and join in was my 3 year old daughter Lorelai. I guess the moral of the story is that God's grace will right the wrongs from generation to generation if we trust in him, and though it may be a struggle to break the bonds that try to tie us, we have a savior who is strong enough to carry those loads for us.

I can't finish the things I left unsaid and undone, but I can make every effort to not make the same mistakes again. And for every misstep, I can trust.

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