Grandma’s legacy

Author: Maureen Tapp
May 09, 2019

It was a hot and muggy afternoon with the occasional breeze that left me wanting more. I was in a good place, a place where wonderful memories had been made throughout my childhood and where a remarkable woman, now 92 years wise, had my undivided attention. Little did I know it then, but this would be the last time that I would see my beloved great grandmother and be able to hear her words of wisdom that would continue to reverberate in my heart until this very day.

You see, my friend and I had taken some time off from school and work and decided to take a mini vacation to Jamaica. I was a junior in college and longed to see the folks “back home.” We visited with family and friends in various parishes but, as always, all roads eventually led to a place called Lodge, a place that my entire family affectionately called “Country.” What made this place so special? It was the place where a woman of faith, strength, intelligence, perseverance and passion would create a legacy that still impacts the lives of her descendants throughout the island of Jamaica and beyond.

My great grandmother, also known as “Grandma” to her children, grandchildren, great grands and the community at large, was a living legend in our eyes. Her renaissance spirit inspired us all, especially the women in the family. As a young girl in the late 1800’s and an inquisitive preteen by the turn of the century, she was already living what most would consider a privileged life. She had grown up in a beautiful home with an abundance of love. Her exposure to art, music, and the finer things in life did not keep her from learning “practical” skills, like sewing, cooking, pastry making and hat making. In addition to acquiring the customary skills for a woman of that period, she was not afraid to step outside of the societal norms and become a woman who recognized her value and who took pride in using her gifts to benefit her family and her community. She was known in her community as the businesswoman, health care provider, counselor, committed worker in her church and a much-admired role model for her family. As a child, she had been taught in the home and developed a voracious appetite for reading that expanded her world and eventually led her to truths that would forever change her life and impact generations to come. As she read and discovered the fascinating places outside of her immediate environment, she was inspired to travel and that she did. She appeared to be in constant search of  the next adventure. When her first daughter, my grandmother, chose to travel to England to study nursing in the late 1920’s, she did not even blink an eye when asked to support that decision. The trip was made and that one decision opened the doors for other family members to venture out in unchartered waters.   Talk about a Renaissance woman!

Well, the day I made the journey home to “country” was some 40 years ago. “Grandma” and I sat together on the front porch like two seasoned souls. She asked about my goals, the welfare of my parents, and whether or not I’d had enough to eat. (She was happy knowing that our bellies were full). She reminisced about her childhood and spoke candidly of a horrible hurricane that had demolished her home and changed life as she had known it. Yes, she was disappointed with the loss of the material things but she’d held onto her hope, her faith and her fight. Her conversation did not linger on the lasting impact of the devastation; she quickly moved on to speak of the spared lives of her husband, children, and grandchildren. She spoke softly of the prayers she was compelled to offer daily, calling the names of each family member.  I smiled as I listened to her speak and dozing off intermittently. Listening to her and hearing the stories shared by her children, grandchildren, and my cousins have led me to believe that the most important legacy passed on by “Grandma” was the value she placed on caring for others, and the prominent place that prayer held in her life.

When I read Proverbs 31:25-26, I am reminded of the legacy that embodied the life of my amazing great grandmother: “Strength and dignity are her clothing and her position is strong and secure; and she smiles at the future knowing that she and her family are prepared. She opens her mouth in skillful and godly wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue giving counsel and instruction.”

“Grandma” died at the tender age of 98 but her legacy lives on. As a family, we thank God for her unwavering commitment to time spent in prayer and her unconditional love for everyone she encountered. What a tremendous legacy! It is a legacy that, as her great granddaughter, I hope to pass along to my children and grandchildren  as well.

What is your legacy?

Happy Mother’s Day!

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