I felt as if I’d found myself when my children were born. They gave me confidence because suddenly I had someone else besides “me” to look out for. I was never very good about looking after myself, but I felt strong and fierce with my babies. When my grandchildren were born, it was another sort of emotion. When I held them – looking back and forth between the child in my arms and the grown-up person (who used to be my baby!) in front of me – it was as if I could feel all the weight of my years, but also the weight of my parents and grandparents behind me. It made me realize that I’d lost a little of my identity when my children were born, but I gave it up gladly. It felt constructive, as if I were building something, but I didn’t quite know what it would be. What I didn’t realize then was that I was forging a chain.
My mother in law died last week. She was 93, and fell and broke her hip. Less than six days later, she died of pneumonia. Although she had been old, she had been in good health until then, so it was a shock when she died. When we gathered for her funeral in a small chapel, and I saw her in her coffin, it was another shock. She’d always been so energetic, even in the last years of her life when she could hardly get out of bed. But she’d lived alone, with part – time caretakers, and had mostly kept her wit. My husband went to see her every other day, and a month before she passed on, my son stopped by to present her great-grandchild to her and she had been thrilled. Her other great-grandchild was at her funeral, making three generations of mourners. We told some stories, recited a poem, and shed some tears. It’s hard to say goodbye.
Perhaps were are nothing in this world; we pass through it like shooting stars – trees last longer, the oceans are eternal – but we are just flashes of light. Last week we said goodbye to a vibrant, funny, energetic woman, whose life had been full of both glamour and regrets. She would have liked to have lived in the south of France, she told me one day – with plenty of sunshine, near the ocean, in a village where her dream had been to run a little shop. But she was one of those people who live very much in the present, and her interests were centered firmly around her children.
I look at my two new grandchildren, and I wish them all the best. I wish that their lives be full of joy, peace, and prosperity. I am glad they are links in the chain that is my family – but ultimately, that they are part of the web that is humanity.