Today is the 54th anniversary of the death of my father’s mother. A farmer woman in the rough and unforgiving land of rural Guyana, she had succumbed to a stroke in the prime of her life, breathing her last words into the ear of her eldest son, imploring him to “take care of the little ones.” Thus, at the tender age of 19, my then uneducated and impoverished father undertook the care and education of his nine younger siblings, and managed to somehow raise five children of his own. In the twilight of his life now, he has oft remarked that after the death of his mother, he would never again cry at someone else’s funeral (a vow I know he has broken at least once.)
His mother would never know that she was to be grandmother to some 30-ish individuals, and great-grandmother to a new brood, some of the former even aspiring to be authors, scientists and blowhard bloggers. Who knows what the great-grandchildren will aspire to become? Peacemakers, poets, plumbers, postmen, philanthropists or tyrants? Or maybe simple farmer folk like their departed ancestress.
I watched March of the Penguins earlier this week. It is, as you know, a heartwarming (and chilling) tale of the hardships and sacrificies endured by Antarctica’s Emperor Penguins to ensure the welfare of their progeny. It behooves us to remember that such tales of supreme sacrificial parenthood are to be observed daily in the human world, as well. The story of the death of my grandmother, while of personal importance, is nonetheless a common one incarnated in a hundred thousand families around the world. Life is struggle and pain, peppered with moments of genuine transcendent joy. At the end of our lives, which shall we remember more?