Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Memere

This is a story that no more begins with a smitten king and queen in a high school play than ends with a closely-pressed family saying tearful goodbyes. This is a story within a story—a little vignette drawn out from the main thread of the narrative. It is full of tears and heartache, kisses and laughter, but most of all I'd like to see it as a continuing heritage of faith.

My grandmother, Dorothy Marie Jean (known to me, my sisters, and my cousins as Memere), passed away December 26th. It was a bitter-sweet day as the family stood, arms tight around each other, tears running down our cheeks, and watched her leave a worn hospice bed and binding oxygen tubes for the open arms of Jesus and the glories of heaven.

As the story goes…Memere met my Pepere, Jean-Paul Jean, in a high school play. Naturally, performing as the king in the play he was at once smitten with the young woman cast as queen. What followed then was a life like so many others: marriage, five children, nine grandchildren, hard times, joyful times, and albums full of memories. Good health was often absent from Memere's life but she was so full of strength and mischief that she never struck anyone as unwell.

As I watched my family at Memere's bedside a few weeks ago, it came to me that my life is a result of my father and mother's lives and their lives are a result of their parents' lives and so on, and it was exactly as God had planned it. It was no accident that I was born the granddaughter of Dorothy Jean—God is too much a God of details. A great cosmic coincidence had nothing to do with my very particular heritage. So if this is my God-ordained heritage then what has been written into me as a result of my Memere's life? Surely there are too many things to note and it will take me a lifetime to realize them all. It has not been long that I have known my Memere as an adult. As a child you absorb actions and words, but it isn't until maturity that you begin to realize motivation and the subtle nuances that make people distinct. I may be only recently discovering a deeper understanding of my grandmother but there are so many precious memories that have impacted my life, some of which I have no doubt have shaped us as a family and as individuals.

Memere was a champion of causes. There was no cause that was too small when it meant something to her. She was frequently writing about people and their struggles, often using her own personal battles with health as her driving force. She had a strength and determination that has extended into her children and her children's children.

Creativity was woven into Memere's life. She loved the expression of art and music as a way to express herself and to bless others. Memere sang and played the organ in church and she knitted afghans and scarves for everyone. She was creativity in action. She didn't just knit because she loved to knit; she always knitted on the go and with people in mind.

The written word was something valuable to Memere. I believe it was one of her most treasured voices. I believe this because all of us used to periodically receive manila envelopes in the mail holding photocopies of articles she thought would be important to our lives. As a child I didn't understand why she did this but as I got older I saw that it was a way to do two important things to her: care for the people she loved and validate the importance of the written word. She encouraged all of us in this passion—as I explored my own love of writing she supported me through gifts of writer's tools. I will always cherish the literary voice she has infused into this family.

From these particular memories there is a connecting theme: Memere's investment in people. She loved to care for and invest in people. A trait much like the Savior she entrusted her life to.

When I think about the sadness I feel for missing her, I cannot help but also think of the joy in knowing she is in the presence of God, a full and complete and healthy reflection of His glory, and I will see her again. It has been through her passing that I have truly begun to understand what it is that we are offered through Jesus Christ. We are offered a heavenly heritage, something that has, until now, seemed a little abstract. It is as the disciple Peter says in I Peter 1:3-5 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you."

I am doubly blessed. I am the heir of the life of Dorothy Jean. My family and I are entrusted with her gifts and passions, her creativity, her value of words, her strength in fighting for what she believed in, her investment in people, and the certainty of her faith. I pray that as we live our lives here on earth, we will be faithful with this God-given heritage until we have the joy of joining her in our heavenly inheritance.


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  2. Such a wonderful story. I love the wedding pictures. So beautiful. And we love you, too, Adria!

  3. My only excuse for missing first post is that I've been sick.

    Lovely sentiments about Memere. I'm sure she is smiling at your blogging about her. She was quintisentially human, full of opposites - selfish and caring, strong and weak, soft and hard. I think she showed our dual nature more dramtically than most. Some of us are more consitently selfless and some of us are more consistently selfish and so are generally viewed as one or the other. Memere was so strongly both. At times the fiercest proposnent of the weak and the most caring and self-sacrificial for her loved ones, and at other times her own desires (and demons) were all that mattered. Pepere was the recipient of both and I admire him for his faithfulness in the tornado that was Memere's long and full life. God bless her. I am richer for having known her.