The fields were flooded with melted snow and the rivers ran high as we crossed the bridges of the two-lane highway headed north. My brother and I took a different route this time; one far removed from the fast pace of the interstate. One that wound it’s way through small towns and the open country of Northern Wisconsin. Trailer homes and collapsed barns, newborn cattle and horses grazing in the muddy pasture, little ones out playing by the roadside. A glimpse into rural America. Scenes I had witnessed a hundred times before. With each passing mile, we neared closer to our grandmother’s house, to the little town she’s lived in most of her life with it’s quaint houses and main street dotted with local businesses that have stood or fallen over time. To the church where my parents were married and my grandparents were remembered. And I realized that this drive, these places that are as much a part of me as my own home, would soon be a part of my past.
My grandmother is 96, soon to be 97. Almost a century of life has been granted to her and I know she is tired. The fingers that once canned peaches and made jam are crooked and swollen with arthritis. The hands that once taught me how to cross-stitch and tend the perennials in her garden are now frail. As are the once strong arms that once were able to haul buckets of wild blackberries and strawberries. The bright blue eyes that once were sharp enough to paint rosemaling on canvas and wood are fading, unable to read the Bible that has long sat at her bedside. The same Bible I read when I was a child, sleeping in her room on long summer nights. The legs that once walked miles with me every summer are now a source of pain, unsteady and uncertain. The skin that was once bronzed by the sun is now dotted with age, wrinkled and sagging. The ears that eagerly heard my dreams have dimmed. The heart that has loved and lost is growing old.
The woman who always loved me is still just as beautiful as she once was and I have been blessed with a lifetime of her. And although I selfishly want more, I know her time here will soon end. A generation gone.
Yet I am growing older too. The joints of my hands and hips are often stiff and painful reminders of heredity; the beginning stages of arthritis, like my mother and her mother before her. The lines on my face are mirror images of theirs as well, as they grow more noticeable each year. As a child, I’d sit next to my grandmother and trace those lines, now deep and set and a part of her. She’d tell me they were laugh lines; lines of joy. And though I’ve always loved the idea that she was content with that, I’ve admittedly grieved my youth more than I should. But God is working in me, as He always does, and I’ve learned to see aging as a gift, something to treasure.
As I’m tempted to fret over my grey hair, the added pounds, the wrinkles on my forehead, I think of what I’ve been given. Time. Precious time. Time with my parents and grandparents. Time to love my husband and raise our children. To pour into this family and leave a legacy of faithful living. Of holding babies, changing diapers, disciplining young ones, reading books, teaching them about Jesus and how they should live in light of their love for Him. Of driving to sports and piano lessons. Of schoolwork and mediating arguments. Of doing another load of laundry and cooking another meal and mopping another floor. Of crying with my teenager because life really is that hard and hearts really do break. All to the glory of God.
As I age, I’m learning to focus more on what I have been given, rather than what I have missed. What I’ve been called to do, rather than what has passed me by. This life is fleeting. And yet, we are asked to be faithful in each moment the Lord gives us and through that faithfulness, we are creating what will be our legacy. What we will pass down from generation to generation. My grandmother’s, my mother’s, mine. A legacy of standing in the midst of adversity. A legacy of hard work and perseverance. A legacy of steadfast faithfulness in the Lord. And that is what I hope to pour into my children. And pray they live their lives to pass that along to their children. And so it goes. Generations of steadfast faith, I pray. Generations of deep lines of joy on our faces and love in our hearts.