When you are a child, your vision of a hero usually includes a masked man racing around to save the world, get the bad guy, and save the maiden all before the last stroke of the clock. As adults, our perspective about heroes changes. We see heroes saving the world all around us. Like the father who wakes up with a 3:45 alarm clock and climbs into his cold truck for his hour commute all to provide for his family. The firemen rushing into the blazes to save. The teacher working endlessly to design some task that will reach this child and give him the belief that he can do it. The mother who stays up all night rocking her little one sick with the flu. Heroic acts of service and love.
A legacy is what we leave behind. Make no mistake. Whether you are a prince or a pauper you will leave many somethings and someones behind. And perhaps I have found that of all of the heroic acts, to live your life for a higher purpose, a calling of faith, and then day by day instill this into you family is by far the most heroic act of all.
I lived with grandma for 2 years while I was in college. I loved spending time with her in the kitchen. Always one with a quick comeback. I loved to pull up a chair and eat cookies and chips and laugh. I always went to bed first and could hear grandma downstairs. One night I went down and found her scrubbing the floor at 1 am. When I asked her what in the world she was doing she shrugged and said well it needed to be done. I loved being there. I loved finding her cold and forgotten coffee in the microwave and joking with her about her finding something more important to be doing.
I laugh as I remember arguing with her about whether we should save everything. Like the time she found a jar of pickles in the basement from 1986. She wouldn't listen to me about throwing it out. "It could still be good!" We had to call poison control where they said "it could still be good but I would throw it out."
I loved listening to her tell stories. She would talk about about family and babies. People getting married. All happy stories. Sometimes we would talk in her room while I laid across her bed as she "piddled" at her dresser. Her dresser was always covered with pictures of family, rosary beads, jewelry given to her, and cards. Grandma never threw anything out.
Grandma and Grandpa had 10 children. Each married. That is 20 children. They have 38 grandchildren and 14 have married which brings the running total to 52. Soon to be 55 after this summer. There are 32 great grandchildren. If you do the math, that is 104 people. All because two people fell in love.... That does not include all of the others that are a part of our family. No wonder we have to rent out a hall for birthday parties. Although that itself is quite the legacy, it doesn't come close to what really stands out about grandma.
If I had to tell of grandma's legacy, I could state it in one word- faith. Everyday, twice a day, I would find grandma praying the rosary for her family. She would tell me that she had prayed for each and every member of the family her whole life. I have never hear her speak a negative word about anyone. She would talk of Jesus as if he was a close friend. She trusted Him. She trusted Him with her family. His family. She always celebrated life. Every birth or marriage was a reason to rejoice. She took her children to church. She taught them how to pray. And most importantly, they witnessed her "walking the talk." She gave without thought and honored without ceasing.
And it stuck. It worked. Or to sound more spiritual "she was rewarded." Not with jewels or rubies that Grandma wouldn't have had a use for anyhow. She was rewarded with goodness that surrounds her in the lateness of her years. No family is without flaws. But we gather together. We laugh at all the little ones and talk over struggles and joys. We pray together. Still celebrating every marriage and birth. Phone chains go on to ask for prayer or give the name, weight, and height of the newest addition. We know that next to our free gift of salvation, family is one of the greatest gifts.
To my grandma who celebrated her 89th birthday this year- I couldn't have asked for a greater example. A woman dedicated to the caretaking of her family. A woman filled with deep convictions that she instilled in her own little ones who then in turn taught their little ones to trust and to believe. As I pray with my own, I do not forget or take for granted where it began. She is a woman of joy and laughter that radiates to her whole family. She is grace in a storm and sunshine in the calm. She is a hero among the commoners.
I love you grandma. Happy Birthday.