My paternal grandmother passed away this past week. I made the trip up to Indiana to her funeral alone. I can’t say I was exactly looking forward to the trip, but I also knew I had to go. There was of course the knowledge that it was the right thing to do, I could easily get away and it would be nice to be with my family during this time. I also couldn’t shake the feeling that I never in a million years imagined I would be here in the US right now. It felt like a door in the universe was opening up and there was no question I would need to walk through it.
Death is sad. Of course. But, it’s inevitable and my grandmother had lived a long, full life. She was blessed with 4 children, 16 grandchildren and over 20 great-grandchildren. How incredibly awesome is that!? She was married to my grandfather for 64 years. They started dating when she was 13. Really, they were one – in the beautiful sense in which soul mates with time just fall into a natural rhythm of being together.
I spent much of the time over the weekend reflecting on the awesome power of values, tradition and the give-and-take of family interactions. Each member of the family makes up one piece in the long, long mish-mash of individual characters. But even in that seeming haphazard existence of each person (born into a family, but influenced by so many different experiences and stories that bump and guide each trajectory), bits of what most makes us family come through.
As family and friends spoke at my grandmother’s memorial service, the same themes kept floating to the surface – unconditional love and acceptance, hard work, adventure. It was an experience of looking around and realizing, “Hey, I come from somewhere.” My own experiences have shaped my beliefs, but the base work – We’re here for you. We love you. Work hard! Get out there and have some adventures! – were laid and then reinforced a long time ago.
All of that was so clear and beautiful this weekend in the process of remembering my grandmother. And, it makes me realize, maybe in remembering her, we’re reminded of what makes up our Selves…on our own or a part of one really, really big family.
Bon Voyage Mary Esther. Thank you Grandma. xo