Today is a pretty special day in our family. First, it is my parents wedding anniversary. (Congratulations, Mommy and Daddy!). I think it’s number 46, but as my father would say, who’s counting?
It is also my grandmother’s birthday. If she was still alive, she would be turning 118. She was born during Teddy Roosevelt’s first term as president. The year before, he assumed the office after McKinley’s assassination.
A month before her 18th birthday, the 19th Amendment was ratified. Her life spanned the entirety of the 20th century and the start of the 21st. She saw some of the greatest advancements and breakthroughs, but also endured very dark times. She was a survivor in every sense of the word. Her death, just shy of her 102nd birthday, felt like an impossibility to me. She had always endured. It is still strange to think of this world without her. I miss her.
Just before she turned 100, she wrote an ethical will. The document was intended to be a synthesis of the wisdom of her accumulated years. I return to it frequently, because of the way in which she was able to communicate hope in the midst of what must have seemed at many times in her life to be crushing despair and uncertainty.
At her funeral, my father ended his eulogy with these words, “There may be a day when you find you can’t go on, when it’s all too much, when you have no strength left, nothing left to give, and all the encouragement in the world is just words. But you will go on anyway. She will be there. Because she is Grandma. Because she loves you. Because you too will want her to be proud of you.”