Wednesday, August 12, 2009

And Pretty Soon . . . (a Legacy)


Aerial view of the Ruby Mountain range from LIFE (1948)

Two weeks before the plane crash Grandma Clark arrived at my door. This was totally unexpected. Grandma is the mother to eight children and forty-five grandchildren (who knows how many great grandchildren? A lot.) Obviously, she doesn't have time to personally visit all of her kin (months? Years?) Mostly when we want to connect with her, we find at home in her cozy white house framed by roses. But this day, I was lucky.

Grandma came over to give me some shirts she thought might fit my frame. From my grandma I inherited a love for patterns and colors in my clothing. Her choices worked perfectly with my closet. She sat down in my white chair and watched me hold up each shirt to my chest, checking the sizes.

They were too small.

"Don't worry, by the fall you'll fit into each of these comfortably." She assured. "Everything passes."

Which reminded me of her life. Six months after giving birth to her eighth child, her husband left on a business trip and never came home. I had heard the story so many times, but I asked her to tell me again. To remind me, everything passes.

He told me he was going on a business trip on a small commuter plane with a pilot. I didn't think anything of it. The night he was set to return I fell asleep on the couch waiting for him to come home. I left the porch light on for him. I woke-up the next morning on the couch, and the porch light was still on.

I walked across the street to my mom's house. When I walked in she was sitting in a chair, looking pale. I looked at her and asked, "Mom, is it Don?" She answered me, "Yes, they are out looking for him. They think they've crashed."

Days later they found the crashed plane in the Ruby Mountains, Nevada.

I was so lonely. I would scrub the kitchen floor at nights to combat the loneliness. I had no choice but to carry on, getting the kids up for church, making pancakes and nursing the baby. So that is what I did, and pretty soon I wasn't so lonely. After some time I stop waiting for him to walk through the door. I just accepted things as they were and I was blessed.

My throat gets lumps every time I think about my young Grandma, on a quiet night with all of her babies in bed, on her hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. How can I reconcile that hardship? How does that compute? It makes me so sad to think of that woman, her place in time, her situation and not being able to help her.

And in two weeks time I got a taste of her experience. Almost exactly forty-eight years later.

I was washing the dishes one night, all the children in bed, my baby nursed to sleep. In my ears were tunes from Steph's I-pod and Chup was working on his laptop. As I scrubbed and scrubbed those dishes I prayed for my sister's body. I missed her. I wanted to call her and talk about what was going on. I wished I could comfort Doug's family in Arizona. I longed for those sleeping children to have their charmed life back. I cried for my husband and baby who suddenly had to share a heavy load with me. And suddenly I collapsed on the floor--a sobbing, shaking pile of emotions. My cry came from the back of the throat and wailed out of my mouth. I grabbed myself and rolled on my side and back. The pain was excruciating.

Chup came and held me and we sat there for awhile until I could think. And I thought.

I thought about Grandma and the gift she'd given me. When she chose to accept things as they were, she gave me the option of doing the same. Even now, decades later. I didn't have to wonder what to do, I knew what to do--her decision created a pathway to mine. That scrubbing woman, on her knees, she did it for me.

I remembered when our family faced the blackness of adversity we had one choice, to carry on with faith, or not. And when she found her self a young, widowed, single mother, my Grandma chose to carry on and changed the course of generations. This (more than fancy shirts) was her inheritance to me.

Everything passes.


My heart and prayers are with the Mingo family tonight. I pray for their comfort, like so many people who prayed for ours. You can read their story here.