Wednesday, October 14, 2009


A long conference with a student meant I was running late to class today--at 1 pm, when I should have been in the classroom with my ringer off, I got a call from my younger brother saying our Grandmother had just fainted and not gotten up and that Grandpa had called an ambulance and gone with her to the hospital.

I remember something like this happening several years ago--I think they lived in California at that time--and everything came out just fine then. I'm assuming that the same will happen now, but it's still scary. It's not so much a feeling of worry over her, she's a good woman and will be all right no matter what--it's a sense of my own vulnerability in the possibility of her absence.

To think that her presence could suddenly be gone, her memories lost to immediate access, is overwhelming. I've certainly been grateful before that I've gotten so much time with my grandparents; I've tried to soak up what I can from them, to take advantage of the chances to talk. I've known that they are (in spite of all appearances to the contrary) mortal--but I've come to depend on them not to do scary things like this!

The world makes sense to me partly through the strength of my grandparents. I think of all they've done, all they've learned, all they went up against and emerged with more love and richer senses of humor--these are the kind of people who keep the spirit of God in the world. While I realize that my grandmother will still exist no matter what happens, it's difficult to imagine a world in which I don't have direct access to the way she tells her stories, the way she keeps her house, the way she plays games with her youngest grandchildren.

My brother will be ordained an Elder in our church on Sunday: it's a moment in which he is invited to embrace adult responsibilities in the community. I will be married next Friday: that's a moment in which I will accept responsibilities we see as binding (and rooting) us through the eternities.

It seems impossible to me at this particular moment that we will live up to all these responsibilities in anything like the way my grandparents have. Numerous ancient religions used to worship ancestors, to project them as somehow larger than life, and I feel like I can understand why.

Perhaps if we hold tenaciously on to their memory and spirits, the stories can give us access to some of their strength and power. But please God give her much more time to live: I don't want my daughter to grow up without her!

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