It’s been just over a year since I received the phone call. It was my uncle, who had never ever called me before. I remember him distinctly saying, “It’s not good. You need to come.” And with that, I think I lost the ability to breathe. I stood there, in my neighbor’s yard, not comprehending. She had been in the hospital before, but she was the picture of health; she always came home saying, “Oh, it wasn’t really anything after all.” Just a couple days earlier we had played sharks and minnows with my four children in the pool then had lunch together, she was doing well. And yet that night, I stood at her bedside with my family as the doctors mumbled words that would take months to understand; oh, I, the wife of a doctor understood them as well as anyone in the room…yet those words took all the bits of my life and scattered them to the four corners. And it would take months for me to pick them up and figure out how they all go together again. Not sure I have them in place yet, but I have learned a lot. One of the first lessons I learned on this journey of mourning was about legacy. My grandmother left a legacy that was rich with love and devotion, full of grace. Soon after her death I scribbled down the notes for this series on Leaving a Legacy, but it hasn’t been until now that I could find the words or the energy to write it all out.
Before Gus and Dimples came home from Ethiopia, my Grandma and I sat on her couch side by side, looking through about a billion toy catalogs. She had decided that she and Grandpa wanted to get my children a play kitchen for Christmas; they needed one – or so she said. Together we picked out a play kitchen that fit her expectations and mine. She wanted it to have a sink and a stove and microwave, and she wanted things to open and “work” like a real kitchen would; she wanted the kids to be able to practice cooking in an American kitchen and be able to learn vocabulary that they had never heard. She wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to adapt to their new home. She bought that kitchen, and she bought a bunch of “food” to with it. The kids loved it that Christmas, and they still play with it now.
One of the things that I love and admire about the way my grandma lived her life was her love of learning. Throughout my life she was always involved in learning something. She took art classes, learned to paint and sketch. She collected shells and knew the names of all the different kinds of shells that she had. My grandpa was a bird-watcher, and she watched along with him so diligently that she could talk birds with the best of them. She knew all the right bird terminology and about all sorts of birds. She loved to watch children learn, and would sit with mine for hours guiding them in the kind of learning that seems a lot more like play.
This is just how she approached life – with a sense of wonder.
Grandma was part of a book club for years. I, on the other hand, had young children and a husband in medical school for years, so Grandma shared book club with me – states away. I only ever read one or two of the books, and I didn’t read them at the same time that the club did…but every other month when the club met, Grandma and I would discuss the book. She’d tell me about the book they were reading, the discussion that took place, and the next selection. I learned the women’s names and who liked what, and it was so fun to hear (from afar) what each woman would pick. Just before she died, it was Grandma’s turn to pick. She picked one of my favorite books, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. The book club meeting that she was supposed to lead took place shortly after she died. They invited me to sit in her place. It was such a sweet night; I learned so much about my grandma that night. I knew each of the women – just by Grandma’s description; I even anticapted what they would say. I also learned (again) the value of continuing to learn and listening to others.
Many days, as I start my homeschooling day, I think about Grandma and how she would have enjoyed this journey. Having been a public school teacher until her retirement, she was opposed to the idea of homeschooling. Yet I know that she would have been thrilled to walk this path with me; she would have savored the children’s paintings and marveled at the way each of them learns differently. She would have given me hints and ideas about how to make their learning more fun for them, and she would have celebrated with us as we have reached victory after victory.
It is this, besides her friendship, that I miss the most, but it is this love of learning that I long to imitate.