- Someone with whom I am acquainted told me that he aspires to live timelessly through his work. He's an actor and in his mind's eye being immortalized in film translates for him, to live far past his three score and ten years on earth.
When I consider the quality of the work he has done lately, and judging from recent releases, it is my belief that just maybe he is pinning his hopes a wee bit too high and in a reality that only exists in transient minds and in memories associated with a particular event.
My maternal grandmother Caroline, was a poor humble woman with no material wealth. For all of her 83 years, she toiled, getting past her physical disability to successfully and singlehandedly raise her three daughters and one son to adulthood and in Trinidadian society, respectability. (That means folks they were public servants and professionals).
My mother, her sisters and brother, are what we in Trinidad call pillars of the society. My aunts now both retired, are very active in the Roman Catholic diocese, while my uncle (now deceased) has left his mark on the Public Service. His daughter is Acting Director of Public Prosecutions. (In the US that would be District Attorney)
As life spins out of control, society's accolades, awards and adulations matter less to those left behind to mourn your passing. Yes there are those who grab for property and money, but there are many who walk away from those things and prefer intangible bequest.
At the time of her passing in 1997, my grandmother's estate comprised a couple pieces of jewelery. She had virtually no material possessions to bequeath to the waiting few and quite frankly I was not looking for anything. But my Grandmother's faith in God as she steadfastly held on to her religion (Roman Catholicism) and her mothering love were her intangible possessions and somewhere in the last eleven years they have been bequeathed to me.
Like most grandchildren of the poor and displaced souls who have died, our immediate sense of loss is in the personal absence. You walk into the kitchen on a Saturday and expect a waft of home made bread in the oven or pigtail soup on the stove top to assault you, and it's not there, the kitchen is cold. You lay in bed on a Sunday morning and listen for the sound and scents off Granny getting ready to go to mass and they don't come at you, the house is silent. Or as in my particular case someone, somewhere begins singing 'All to Jesus I Surrender' and you just can't stop the tears from flowing, or the memories of you sitting on her bed, in your all white First Sunday dress, singing that song of surrender with her and realizing at that point that you were letting her go through the Gate into our Savior's waiting arms.
It has taken me twelve years to understand that on that fateful morning when I released my grandmother into the waiting arms of Jesus she bequeathed to me her unshakable faith in God and her sense of mothering. She knew there was nothing else that she could give to me or I would have accepted. She knew I felt really guilty accepting gifts.
I did not need a solicitor to do the probate or the Registrar to acknowledge the legacy; My life's challenges and their seemingly miraculous outcomes, always pointed to some greater spirit at work for me. But because I was so focussed on the material aspect, climbing to the top of the corporate ladder, acquiring the trappings of successful society, I never stopped to consider that I may not have needed to be that image my screwed up mother branded in my mind; and which my grandmother somehow realized went against everything natural to me. In the years since her death my priorities have changed so much.
I can't help but wonder, how I would be remembered if I died at this moment? What will and legacy would I leave for those who mourn my passing?
When I was younger there was a radio progamme that aired every morning called The Passing Parade. Have any of you ever heard the programme? I cannot but help think about those who have passed, who we will not let rest in peace. They are immortalized not for who they were as people but more for what they did in public. The Marilyn Munroe s, the John F Kennedy s, the Elvis Presley s, all fixated into our psyche, remembered not for their essence of self but for their worth as commodities.
What Caroline Kennedy and Lisa Marie Presley remember of the essence of their famous fathers, is more real to them, than all the accolades and documentaries the Biography channel can give to us. What Marilyn Munroe's friends remember about her as a person has more worth to them than the thousand of dollars paid at auction for one dress she wore.
The novel (and now movie) PS I Love You, trivializes death, wills and legacies but somewhere in there is a story about the dead comforting the living. A story that appeals to me on a personal level because although I don't get letters, in many ways I reach out to the dead for comfort, morbid as it may sound and my grandmother reaches back out to me.
Not one of us can say that we have not cried out in times of turmoil and distress, amid our tears, laughter and sighs to a dead loved one, asking a question that may or may not be answered. Admit it, we do it.
My dead comforts include old movies Casablanca, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Gone With The Wind and even The Invisible Man. I listen to Barry White, Minne Ripperton, Luther Vandross, Mozart, Strauss, Schubert, Tchaikovsky and Puccini. I read Chaucer, Shakespeare Burns and the Bible.
But many times I call my grandmother's name and I ask her what to do and how to resolve my turmoil. It is the comfort that her spirit brings to my soul that for me defines her immortality, her legacy and God's will.
How will you be remembered? What will be your will and legacy?
The Uninhibited Diplomat
Sunday, May 17, 2009
WILLS AND LEGACIES
There was chaos in Scotland Bay Village. Everywhere, everyone was busy; packing, unpacking, leaving burnt bare lands for the Americans.
Away from the noises and confusion the aquamarine Caribbean waves played a soft calypso rhythm, strumming, rippling, kissing bare toes, feet and ankles dug deep into the cold, clammy sand.
The air was laden, ready, thick with the rancid scent of seaweed, salt and smoke carried in the spray; pushed by angry, crashing, foaming waves against a stony coastline up and around the Bay’s end.
She was misted; creating an eerie appearance as she sat back hunched on a fallen tree trunk embedded in the sand; knees tucked under the wide folds of her skirt. Damp grainy sand and the sea waters rushed up; bubbling in between her fingers and feet. Gently she rested her chin on her knees and looked out at the fading horizon, watching the day in its brilliance and splendor of death at sunset. The fiery gold of the sun’s rays; fingering, shimmering on the aquamarine canopy of the sea, dazzling blinding and ever so slowly, churning to taunting, tangerine orange and saffron reds; cascading into purple, violets and royal blue of evening time with ballet like precision. And later as stars peeping first play hide and seek with the naked eye, streaks of charcoal gray strut into midnight black, shadowing the earth into illusions of peace-fullness, as twinkling jewels finally sparkle in the phosphorescent gleam of a splendid Caribbean moonlight.
The gulf steamer disregarding war time surveillance orders; tugged by, alerting Astral Le Noireau to the lateness of the hour. She sighed lifted tiny hands from the sand and stared as the grains quietly trickled back into their places on the seemingly un-rumpled shore. The signal light of the streamer as it passed by and answering flashed from the lighthouse, momentarily blinded her as she turned huge tear filled almond shaped golden eyes up and then out, taking in the silver-ness of the long familiar Scotland Bay coastline, now bathed in the beauty of a full Caribbean moonlight. The gentle breeze blew her blue black hair into her eyes and face, as one hand rose gracefully to whip the unruly strands back into place. Silently a figure standing in the shadows of a coconut palm tree observed her.
Astral stood crying silently, watching the village she so love fade into the night shadows as the steamer padded laboriously out into the first Boca. Every inch further way from Scotland Bay felt like a fist clenching around her lung, stifling her, killing her. She stood rooted until Chateau le Noireau was no longer visible as they rounded the bend at Delgada Point. Until tears of frustration overwhelmed her and she crumbled to the seat on the almost empty steamer. Astral Le Noireau and her precious possession were some of the last things to evacuate from her village.
The Marines had put her on the ferry.
(c) 2006 Cecly Ann Mitchell
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