Last week I had the privilege of introducing my daughter to her great grandma.
After a lovely visit in her apartment we walked Grandma Elaine down to the dining room for lunch.
“Oh, let me see the baby!” A care-worker cried as we peeked in the doorway. I chuckled at my very tall almost three year old being called a baby. Her size though did not stop the nurse from cooing and baby talking. “Her name is Elaina.” Grandma said, “They named her after me. I don’t know why…” She added modestly with a blush creeping into her cheeks.
“Because she looks like you!” The care-worker cried. “She looks just like you!”
Elaina does share some of her great grandma’s lovely features (with a bit of Chinese thrown in). What I hope for most of all is that Elaina will share the amazing paradox of gentleness and gritty strength that shines through her now 89 year old namesake.
In my post Grandpa, I mentioned his 18 year old sweet heart who he met when sneaking into a high school dance. (He was 25). The young lady who looked just like Snow White married him shortly afterwards, raised their five children on a house float, awaiting ocassional shipments of clothing and food. Sometimes the order would get mixed up and they received a plethora of pickled pig’s feet.
Life in Echo Bay required a lot of strength both physically and emotionally. Dark, rainy winters in a tiny community without the lates appliances that her city peers enjoyed. My uncle Duane recalls Grandma carrying a box of tinned milk under one arm and his amply sized body under the other and the next moment turning heavy cranks for the endless cooking and washing that needed to be done. Her strength endured through Grandpa’s seminary training in Vancouver and then caring for their farm in Terrace. That is where my fondest memories are. I can see her now throwing a log in her wood stove and pulling golden bread out of the oven while fresh garden potatoes bubbled on the hot black iron surface.
After all that hard work, no complaining was found on her lips. Just a sweet smile, a cup of tea and lots of good stories before a long walk along the railroad track.
With these memories so clear in my mind, it was hard to see Grandma now struggling to stand and walk down the hall or remember what I told her a few moments before. Hard for me to see but even harder for her to experience. Frustration that her body just won’t do what it could before. I think that this season is the one that takes the greatest strength to thrive. I was overjoyed to see her familiar smile and sweet twinkle in her eye. We sat in her apartment and laughed as Elaina discovered a funny pair of glasses in the toy box complete with eyebrows and a big nose. We all tried them on.
Elaine means bright light of God and that is who Grandma Elaine is to me. She reminds me that I can smile in hard times and I have been given great strength even when I feel weak. I remember her and Grandpa praying for every family member as a part of their morning routine. While the routine may have changed I know that she still carries each of us in her heart and simple wordless prayers. And now it is my turn to pray for her as she lives at least another 11 years :).
I flew to Terrace to remember her light and feel it around me like a warm hug.
That is why I named my daughter Elaina.