A few days after my grandmother went to heaven, my mom and I spent some time together sorting and organizing the personal treasures and trinkets my grandmother had left behind. As we looked through photos, clothes and other personal belongings, we couldn’t help but dwell on the remarkable woman that she was.
My grandmother was a very generous person. A visit to her house by definition also meant the sharing of a home cooked meal with you, whether you planned on it or not. If you didn’t know my grandmother very well but you visited her home, you would surely remember her by the delicious meal she prepared for you. She was a great hostess, and always made time to welcome her family, and their friends, in her well-kept home.
I grew-up watching my grandmother take great care of her family, her home, and her belongings. In her kitchen cabinets there was a section for dinnerware reserved for special occasions and just for guests, and in her closet there were sections for every-day clothes, clothes reserved for doctor visits, church clothes and clothes for special occasions. If you ever gifted my grandmother an article of clothing, it would surely be categorized in the special occasion section of the closet where it would be protected by plastic covers in order to preserve it for that “one special day” when she would need to wear it. You see, my grandmother always guarded and reserved some of her best possessions in anticipation of times that called for something special, unique or out of the ordinary. Each new day, my grandmother was intentional in the things that she used, the things that she gave, and the things that she stored. My grandmother lived a life full of intentionality with every decision that she made.
Since my childhood there were certain things that my grandmother displayed in her house which I begun to treasure. I could look around her home and see things I could identify with, things that I wanted for very my own. For each and every one of those things, my mother likely knew a story about how my grandmother had come to own that very item, stories that she had witnessed or had helped bring to fruition. Stories that were heart-warming, stories that I never knew. As my mom and I went through my grandmother’s clothes, I remember my mom handing me one of grandma’s batitas (nightgowns) as she lovingly said: “esta es la batita que mami se puso para ir al hospital cuando tu Tío Leonel nació”, (translation from Spanish: this is the nightgown that my mom wore to go to the hospital when your Uncle Leonel was born). That story completely caught me by surprise. The batita I now held in my hands was the very batita my grandmother had carefully saved after all those years, and it was so delicately beautiful. It was soft, flowy, multi-layered, and with beautiful details created by the intricate sewing of the fabric. It was elegant, feminine, and inspiring.
At that moment I couldn’t help but think of what the moment my grandmother put on this batita could have been like for her all those years ago, or what she could have felt as she left the house to go give birth to my uncle, who would become her fourth child. I tried to imagine my grandmother planning ahead for my uncle’s arrival, getting dressed-up in this beautiful batita as the time drew near. I tried to picture what she looked like dressed-up with the specific purpose of going to a hospital to go give birth to a new life. I wondered if she felt the weight of that particular moment, or of the power of the moments that were about to unfold and change her and her family’s life forever. I wondered if at that moment she felt heaven cheering her on, if she sensed the angels making a way for her as God’s presence filled the room because a new life would be born on earth, one that would reveal the image of God on a human face in a way that no one had ever seen before. I wondered if she felt confident or afraid, if she felt ready or unprepared, if she felt energized or exhausted as she headed out to birth her fourth child into this world. I wondered to myself:
How does one pick out an outfit when they know they are about to go and forever change the world?
My grandmother wore that batita on the very first day of my uncle’s life. My grandmother had of course already lived many days before this one, she had already given birth to three other children, but that day, it was the very first day of my uncle’s life here on earth. As I held this delicate batita in my hands, I just couldn’t move past that thought, and the question kept echoing in my heart: how does one pick out an outfit when they know they are about to go, gift a life to this world and forever change it?
Though my grandmother lived a live filled with intentionality, I don’t know that every decision that she made felt life-changing, but the reality is that through her intentional and thoughtful actions, she passed on memories of moments that she cherished through the items that she carefully preserved, through the stories she lovingly shared, and even through the items that filled her home. My grandmother’s life of intentionality ensured that the culture of love, generosity and care that she cultivated in her lifetime found a way to live on and inspire those closest to her even after she journeyed to her heavenly home.
My grandmother lived a life full of trust in God and though she built and daily tended to her home here on earth, she knew that her eternal home was in heaven and that would require that she leave her earthly possessions behind. She saw past the immediate needs of her daily life and lived a life with passion, caring and loving-on all those around her reach, and putting purpose behind her actions. As my grandmother aged and her own memory was challenged, the hope of the eternity that was set within her heart was the compass leading her to heavenly home, and the closer she got to it, the further she got from us.
As I look around and hold her batita in my hands, as I eat ice cream from the amber bowls in her cupboard, and as I remember the mouth-watering aromas of her kitchen at dinnertime, I know they are intentional breadcrumbs that she’s left behind for us. Breadcrumbs with which to cultivate a culture of intentionality, of generosity, and of care, but most importantly, breadcrumbs to help us find our way to our real home, and in this lifetime take our share of a heritage that was built on hope, faith and love. Life is beautiful, because she lived.
Each new day that we are granted comes full of decisions that we need to make. The clothes that we wear, the meals that we cook, the conversations that we have, and even the things that we leave left unsaid, these are all part of the every-day decisions that we make. Whether they feel important, whether we feel their weight, they are decisions that are making, and shaping, who we are, how we live, and how we are known to those in our world–defining and building on to our very own personal culture while sharing with others the heritage that has been passed on to us.
Our every-day decisions hold great power because as we make them, they shape and make up our life. As we live life intentionally, may we be found leaving intentional breadcrumbs behind for others. Breadcrumbs with which others can continue to cultivate a culture of love and of care, a culture that points them to an eternal hope.
May we be bold enough to intentionally rise and partake in the heritage that has been left for us. A heritage built on hope, faith and love. A culture and heritage that is intentional in mending broken hearts and helping them stay the course and find their way home.
by Wendy Gonzalez for www.thehoperesolve.com