Thursday, May 5, 2011

On Legacy, Part 1

Family, and specifically, mothers, have been on my mind a lot lately.

And no, it isn't really because Mother's Day is around the corner.

I've been thinking a lot about connections and the legacy we leave---the kind of legacy I hope to leave someday. Two things have spurned this on, and I imagine that it will take two posts to adequately express my feelings.

A bit over a month ago, my grandmother passed away. I've wanted to post something about her since it happened, but I have had difficulty coming up with anything meaningful. Not because she wasn't meaningful herself--quite the opposite. She was truly an amazing women. At the ripe old age of 98 and a half, she was survived by 6 children, 34 grandchildren, 95 great-grandchildren, and 24 great-great grandchildren. She lived a quiet life, but she was full of love, and stubbornness, and concern for every one of us in that list. I am grateful to have had her touch my life and grateful that she is relieved of her earthly cares, on to bigger and better things. People remark what a legacy she left in pure posterity, and it is truly beautiful.

But none of these things really means anything. Because statistics and generalizations about my grandma or her posterity do not actually give any idea of who she was. These things do not fill me with the Christmas Eve anticipation of grandma bringing her handmade Christmas bags to every one of those 34 grandchildren, each complete with handmade ornaments, popcorn balls, and two crisp-as-could-be one dollar bills. Or the absolute dependability of a birthday card from one person on the planet. Or her laugh...the way she would almost close her eyes and tilt back her head, and lift up her hand, covered in skin like crepe paper, just a bit as she let it out.

Numbers don't explain her fierce desire for independence--the apologies she would make when I was the one who got to take her on her weekly shopping trip, too worried about inconveniencing me to know how very much I enjoyed spending the time with her, or the insistence that she put those groceries away and the fuss she would make when I would do it anyway. Generalizations don't bring to mind the holographic bandaid she wore on her forehead at my wedding (because in spite of a fall on the way up the temple steps, she was not going to miss it). They don't tell the tale of how, in spite a broken hip, she chastised the paramedics taking her to the hospital for not allowing her to put on a nicer looking dress.

Numbers don't call up the soft voice, the way she watched my children play...the peaceful, contented look she had as she watched all of us--the 34, and the 95, and the 24--play.

Most importantly, it isn't numbers that she left behind. In fact, it isn't just people. It's mannerisms and habits, turns-of-phrase and expressions; it's a legacy not of things, but of spirit. What she left behind is still in us. It's there in the way an uncle and an aunt laugh, the way one talks, and the way another worries. It's there in the way my father walks and the expressions he uses (and the stubbornness I know I will have to contend with as he himself ages). It's in my prematurely graying hair at my temples, and another cousin's nose or eyes. And from there it goes on and out to all of us counted in those numbers. Whether they are physical traits, words she spoke, or the simple mannerisms of a remarkably good woman, they are there.

And ultimately, her legacy is an endless thread of love and goodness woven into each of us. As long as we are still here, spinning and weaving those threads, she is still here.



  1. Thank you Kierra - That was beautiful. Heidi

  2. I enjoyed this SO much. You write so beautifully. I wish I had your talent! She truly was a remarkable woman!


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