When you marry someone, that person comes attached to a whole group of people. Siblings, parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents. They become your family. When you have children they are your children’s family. My children are blessed. They have known four great-grandparents. Four vibrant, active and interactive great-grandparents. It is so rare and so precious.
My husband’s grandmother, Etta, passed away last week at the age of 97. In many respects Etta had a long and enviable life. She was the youngest of 7 children and unfortunately, had a sad and unhappy childhood. But she was smart and bright and was the epitome of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. Despite her circumstances she put herself through teacher’s college and at the age of 23 took a ship by herself half way around the world to teach in a remote area of India.
There she met the love of her life, Leonard McCulloch, who she married in 1941. I never met Mac (as he was called by friends) but Etta’s love for him permeated her being. It was palpable. They travelled the world together, not always under the most comfortable of circumstances and raised four globally aware and community minded children. She had grandchildren and great-grandchildren who loved her and family that doted on her until her last breath.
Etta was 86 when I met her. To me she was a sweet old woman who looked lovely in lavender and insisted on afternoon tea. She had a sense of humor about life and her experiences and was quite a storyteller. When Etta was 90 she insisted on signing her 20+ year subscription of Better Homes and Gardens over to me. It was a two-year subscription and she was sure it would outlast her and she wanted to have everything squared away.
Nonetheless, Etta never stopped having adventures well into her 90’s. She came to our wedding in Alaska, she flew to Hawaii for my brother-in-law’s wedding, she took a cruise to China and Hong Kong, and she wrote a book about her life called A Pleasure to Remember. She showed us and our children that life can be full until the last-minute.
In the last decade of her life one of her greatest adventures was her 7 great-grandchildren. Some kids aren’t lucky enough to even have grandparents let alone four great-grandparents that are able-bodied and of sound mind. Etta had amazing energy when it came to her great-grandchildren. She held them and hugged them, she rocked them and read to them, sang to them and even Skyped with them. In return, they quite simply loved her. The last time my son spoke with her he said “I love you Gigi. To the moon and back.”
When we would come to visit she would sing to the kids at the dinner table:
“Thank you for the world so sweet
Thank you for the food we eat
Thank you for the birds that sing
Thank you God for everything”
The song had a beautiful message. It was a beautiful way to live life. It was the way that Etta lived her life. Thank you for the big things in this world. Thank you for the small things in this world.