Monday, May 22, 2017

Pass The Torch

I slip into a pew at the back of the church. The church is full, and the predominant color is black. I search for my friend and her family, and recognize the backs of their heads. How familiar they still are when I cannot see their faces.

We are gathered together to mourn the loss and to celebrate the life of Jean--a woman I hardly knew except that she was my friend's mother. Even though she was in her eighties, her death is a shock. She was a vibrant lady who'd played her weekly golf game a few days earlier.

Jean's life's ambition was to do three good deeds a day, and she impressed upon her grandchildren to do the same, not only by suggesting it many times, but in doing it herself. The five grandchildren who spoke mentioned her aphorism "Do three good turns a day," and all could recall a story of receiving a "good turn," or being with Grandma when she did a "good turn."

She passed out bushels of apples from her orchard; she made phone calls and connected to the disconnected everyday. She refused to use a cell phone, which often put her on the doorsteps of strangers asking to use their phone. After one of these encounters, she spent the next hour warming the heart of a downtrodden woman.

Grandma Jean reached out to so many people, loving them, cooking them breakfast, attending their sports events, calling to check on them,--one grandchild wonders how the world will go on...but Grandma Jean accounted for that, intentionally or not.

By her life's example, she is an inspiration; not one person could leave the funeral without wanting to serve more, love more, live more. Her good example is clearly a torch in need of other strong hands to bear the weight.

When another friend's mother died unexpectedly, she promised her nieces and nephews she would carry on their grandmother's Christmas traditions she'd brought from Germany as a young girl. The advent calendar, the stollen, the cookies, the lighting of the tree. Her job, her torch to carry, was clearly defined.

Grandma Jean's torch is not so specific.

It's as if the world is supported by Greek columns: the Doric, the scrolled Ionic and the Corinthian. If one column collapses, thirty people must rush in to hold up that square foot of the world. Jean's work was the work of many. She was a stable column, a torch bearer, a care bear, yet 300 people heard her legacy and we now know there will be a sagging part of the world if we don't rush in to hold it up.

Reach out your hand--a torch has been passed.

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