There are three pictures that I remember seeing as a child that capture the essence of my grandmother, Ruth Williams, who passed away earlier this week with 87 (almost 88) years under her belt. While we didn’t always see eye-to-eye on issues related to religion and politics, I now realize I have inherited more from her than my short stature, opinionated personality, and cheeky grin. The pictures are all older than I am, but they serve as important reminders for the wisdom I’ve gained from being her granddaughter.
Picture 1: Ray Sensenbrenner
My grandmother always spoke fondly of her father Ray (my great-grandfather). She reminisced of her days at the logging camps in northern Wisconsin and her father’s close relationship with nature. This picture is telling of the times and our intimate relationship with predator populations like the wolf, man’s competition in the deer hunt. When I first look at this picture as an environmental science teacher, I immediately think of population dynamics–ecological impacts of reducing one population on other populations. While I have a plethora of education and textbook knowledge, what I’m lacking is experience to see the bigger picture, to understand the history–something Ray and his daughter had in spades.
Nothing beats experience.
Picture 2: The Nurse
If you asked my grandmother what her passion was, she might tell you she enjoyed drawing and art, but her true passion was most likely nursing. This picture is striking not only because she is beautiful, with movie star like glamour, it represents a person who found contentment in a calling. She devoted her entire life to educating and training nurses. It wasn’t enough for her to develop the skills to be successful and effective in the career, she wanted to share that with younger generations. When most people would be enjoying retirement, my grandmother was traveling the state as a teacher. There are too many people today that are unfulfilled in their professional lives, who work for the paycheck. Ruth was not one of them.
Do what you love.
Picture 3: The Happy Couple and Cake
For 63 years my grandmother has been telling my grandfather not to eat so much sugar, and for 63 years my grandfather has continued to satisfy his sweet tooth. This picture represents more than a marriage, it represents the support everyone deserves, but very few are lucky to enjoy for as long as Ruth and Louie. Life is only so long and dying is unavoidable, so we must be present. We must focus on those we love, whether it’s a partner, sibling, child, parent, or friend. What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and meet my grandparents as their younger selves. It’s okay to eat cake and celebrate. Grandma would say, “just a small slice please” leaving more for grandpa.
Savor the sweetness and share it when possible.
You will always be with me.