“Let us not become weary in doing good . . . ”
I was in a meeting last night when someone read those words. “Let us not become weary in doing good–” and the rest was hard for me to hear because I was so uplifted by the first eight words. I felt excited at the prospect of Weary-Free, Good Doing. Immediately my thoughts turned to Grandma – Mary – the “Mary” in “Mary and Bob” – and the post I wanted to write today.
Today is her birthday. October 6, 1912.
There are facts I know about Grandma but I can’t say for sure that I really knew her. I used to think that if I asked the right questions of someone, if I spent enough time listening and asking, creating a situation where they would tell me the truth about themselves, that I could get to a place of knowing that person. Really knowing them. Pretty naive, now that I think about it. Better to just be with someone. I didn’t do enough of that with Grandma.
When you’re in Los Angeles and your immediate family is in Maryland–when you only have 2 weeks off from work per year–and especially after you meet the love of your life and he’s living in D.C.–going to a crossroads on the wrist of the mitten that is Michigan doesn’t happen very often.
Have you ever stopped in a town with a population of 2300? It’s fascinating. But this isn’t about those 2,298 other people. It’s about Grandma and her sister. My extended family fixed firmly in the place where they lived for decades. It’s about the time I wish I had spent with Grandma – wish I could spend now with Aunt Ruth – occupying the same space. Pouring a cold Vernor’s, sitting quietly with our books, indulging in an after dinner piece of candy.
Grandma walked with a cane towards the end of her life. Good practical sense to use a support system when navigating that huge curb outside of the library. Every time I went to visit her, we’d make at least one trip to the library. I can still see her with an armload of books, she read several a week. Books in one hand, cane in the other. I want to be like that someday.
At her memorial service, the pastor told that when he first took up residence in their town, Grandma made a visit to his home. She arrived with a stack of–not books but–newspapers nestled between her forearm and chest. A variety of newspapers. I don’t remember the words he used when quoting her, but she made it clear to him that she wanted her pastor to read the news. This may be a small town, but I expect you to know what’s going on in the world.
I can’t – won’t try to – summarize Mary in a blog post. I fear reducing her to a list: her love of poetry, and reciting it, the way she tutored children right up until —
I can’t fathom how people handle facing their mortality. How people prepare to let go of the sweetness of soil and water and sky and leaves. And books and words. How people say goodbye to their very own bodies.
Last night at my meeting I learned that next month I get to attend a lecture on grief counseling. I heard that we’ll be talking about loss. “From the moment we are born, we are experiencing loss. Loss of the comfort of the womb. And from then on, all of life is filled with moments of loss.”
Loss of time, loss of grandmothers, loss of energy. . . . I can let it consume me. But I must remember that I never saw Grandma dwell on loss.
Looking at Mary, one saw a constant flow of weary-free, good doing. Never missing a single birthday for any of us. Sealed, stamped, packed with generosity and on time. Five foot one with a five eleven voice. Right up until.
Happy Birthday, Grandma.