In 1998, my paternal grandmother was killed in a car accident. She and my grandfather had been married for 54 years. They were both the children of homesteaders, and quickly followed in their parents' footsteps by homesteading their own parcel of land. The house they built there, as money allowed, is the house where they raised their nine children, and the house they lived in until the days they both died.
After Grandma's death, Grandpa spent almost two years proving to the world that he was no good as a bachelor before re-marrying to another very capable woman--a widow from Iowa. He and Virginia were actually married very shortly after Jason and myself. (How weird is it to be getting married the same year as your grandfather?) They enjoyed over five years together in amiable companionship before Grandpa also died of a heart attack. Virginia still lives in her own home in Iowa, and the kids and I were fortunate to get to see her last fall on our way south to Arkansas.
The very year Grandpa died, I found out some things about him that I never knew before. In fact, when I later told my dad that Grandpa had at one point wanted to be a professional cabinet-maker, even Dad was surprised. I was so sad that he died before I got to know him better as a man, not just as my Grandpa. I mourn even more for the years I lost with my Grandma Hilman--even though, as the oldest grandchild, I certainly got more time to get to know her than any of my cousins.
As I sat out in the snow this afternoon, bundled up in my winter clothes and finally digging up my potatoes from the frozen ground--on Thanksgiving day, which is generally considered a little too late in this part of the world for gardening!--I wished I could have been able to consult with my Grandma, or at least compare notes, now that I am homesteading my own place. She would have known better than to leave her garden in the ground until the second week of October. Granted, winter is not usually here by then, but there is always the odd year--and this year has been very odd. She would probably have some great stories about the first few years on the farm, before the farmhouse was built, and when it was just the two of them plus one or two little boys.
It makes me wonder how much wisdom has been lost in the last century about how to really live on this earth--how many children have grown up from the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries without knowing the wonderful things that their grandparents could have taught them? How much are we having to re-learn, not at our grandparents' knees, but through trial and error or electronically via the internet? Thank goodness that someone took time to learn from their family's previous generations, so that humanity as a whole could benefit!
I would not wallow in misery for what is no longer retrievable, though. These thoughts made me grateful for the wisdom that is still available to me--both of my maternal grandparents are still living (and from good farming stock, too). My father and mother both have farming backgrounds, and knowledge about many, many other subjects, besides. I have numerous (and I do mean NUMEROUS!) uncles and aunts that know pieces of Grandpa and Grandma Hilman's stories--pieces that could be fitted together to make an interesting picture of their lives, even if necessarily incomplete. Their legacy is not dead--it lives on in us, their family.
I have the world's best husband, three adorable kids, and a roof over my head. There is food in my fridge and friends close by. In this twenty-first century, with uncertain economic times, a changing climate, and predictions of doom and gloom all around, there is still so much to be thankful for.
One of the best parts of the legacy that my grandparents left was faith--the kind of faith that gets you through fifty-four years of marriage, many hard times, and many good ones. The kind of faith that reminds you through all of it that at the end of the Book, the Good Guy wins.
So why not be thankful? After all, it's all going to be okay.
"Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." I Thessalonians 5:17, 18 (NIV)