Early on Sunday morning, I was going about life as usual. Or rather, I was up earlier than usual and preparing to walk out the door to head off to Church for set-up. At that point, my mother stopped me and broke the news that her mother, my grandmother, had passed away earlier that morning. I was stunned, taken aback. I wasn't ready for that news. Even though I knew she had been sick and I knew in the previous weeks that the news could come at any time, I hadn't been ready in that moment.
I've spent the days since going about life as usual, but also reflecting on her life and on the memories I had with her. When you lose someone it's interesting the memories that are brought to life. For instance when thinking about my father's father, I remember the smell of tobacco fondly, though I hate tobacco. But it always stained his clothes and his skin with a smell that smelled like...his warm, friendly nature. So too have I been looking through the books and emails that I shared with my grandmother. She was a woman I was always close with, someone who could talk literature with me. She was a woman who believed in equality, and passed that on to me (though I don't believe in 'labels' and hence don't consider myself egalitarian or feminist for that reasoning).
On the Monday morning, I picked up this book. It was her last gift to me, some three months ago, via one of my uncles. I hadn't had a proper look at the book, though I know how useful and precious it is. On the opening page she had written an inscription: 'To Jonathan, with my love and an expression of admiration and a hope for your future.' The tears started streaming again, and there's nothing wrong with there being any time for grieving. It's a strength as a man or woman to be in touch with your emotions, as much as it is to be masculine or feminine (I think society has twisted those concepts far too much but that's another discussion).
You see what this book stands for now, rather than just being any other book about poetry (though it is that too), is a representation of a life of spiritual faith and love. My grandmother, even as she began to get sicker and weaker, was thinking of the family she would leave behind - the great grandchildren she would never see, the future careers of her grandchildren etc. - and she expressed her hope, her desire, that we might all have great futures. That was her legacy to me, and I hope as I become a teacher that I might be a great man to honor the legacy of my family. Not great in terms of how we judge greatness, but great in terms of the impact left behind. And one day I hope to have children of my own to whom I can tell about their great grandmother, one of the strongest people I have ever known.