Most of you know it was my Grandmother’s funeral on Friday. She was nearly 92 – she had lived a full and complete life, and I was glad she left this world when she did, before she suffered much as she gradually declined.
But no matter what the circumstances, death is always confronting. To tell the truth, I hadn’t thought much about her death leading up to the funeral. Everything was so hectic at work and then we all got sick and I was trying to get the kids packed to go away (you know how it is). But once we were sitting in the church, looking at the coffin and the lovely display my Aunt had made to represent my grandmother’s life, I felt really overwhelmed.
As my mother said in her eulogy, by the world’s standards, my grandmother was not really an “important” person. She grew up on a farm in the Depression and trapped rabbits to sell their hides so her family had enough to eat. She didn’t have a “career”; she lived her whole life in a tiny country town that’s barely a dot on the map. Like most of the millions of people who come and go, my grandmother will not be remembered in history books or stories. But she was a quiet, faithful person. She served her family, friends and her community her whole life without asking anything in return. She valued the few things she had and was not wasteful. She brought up three children, who in turn had children, who now have children. We are here because of her, and hopefully, will make the world a better place because we were in it.
One of my favourite novels of all time is “Middlemarch” by George Elliot. Her main character, Dorothea, is one such faithful person. The novel ends with these words as it describes Dorothea’s life:
“The effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
I love this quote – I love the fact that there are thousands of such people living their hidden lives, quietly adding to the growing good of the world, even though they’ll never be recognised for their efforts.
My life is so different to my grandmother’s. As a feminist I am glad of that – that I have the opportunity to have a career and spread my wings and do so many things that perhaps she did want to do, but never had the chance to. But I don’t want to lose sight of what she knew was important. Careers come and go, the lights on the world stage eventually dim – and what we have left is what really matters. I want to be a faithful and loving partner, friend, mother, sister, daughter. I want to make the lives of those around me better. Our lives are so unbelievably short, they really are just a breath. It’s good to take moments like this and think about the legacy we want to leave. Maybe nothing will change – maybe everything will. But when I get to the end, I want to be sure I can look back with happiness and contentment – as I believe my grandmother did.