I don’t know how you spent the day after the election. Chances are you were either celebrating or in mourning, depending upon whether you call yourself blue or red. In either case, this one seemed more emotional than usual, didn’t it? We’ve either gained so much or lost so much, brightened our future or darkened it. There seems to be little middle ground, and there are a great many among us who believe our country close to some fundamental unraveling by the zealots on the right or the liberals on the left. Strange as it may be, this seems to be the one thing we can all agree on.
Me, I neither cheered nor mourned. I instead spent the day after the election at a funeral for my grandmother in-law. She closed her eyes to one world and opened them to another last Sunday at the age of 95.
We gathered along the mountain slopes at a small Baptist church with a graveyard pocked by tiny Confederate flags that marked the resting places of the Civil War’s fallen.
A hundred of us, more or less, half of which were family and the other half friends, all of us united in celebrating that one life. One life that you may believe was wholly insignificant, given the fact that she spent most of it on a 200-acre farm at the base of the mountain.
She was a quiet soul, my grandmother in-law. Born at the beginning of World War I, married during the Great Depression and married still sixty-four years later, when her husband passed. In between she’d given birth to ten children, was a grandmother to more than I can count, great-grandmother to my own children, and great-great grandmother to more. At her service, five generations were in attendance.
Think about that.
Her life was built upon three guiding principles: faith, family, and farm. She loved her God, loved her husband and children, and loved the tiny plot of Earth she’d been given. Of all the accolades I heard in her name yesterday, my favorite were her hands. They weren’t smoothed or polished or wrinkle-free, but calloused and scarred from years of labor, most of which was spent near the woodstove upon which she cooked her family’s meals. That was her thing. Neither electricity or gas would do when it came to supper. Food tastes better when it’s cooked over a fire. I know this for a fact.
The picture you see to the right is the view from her graveside. My faith and hers says she is in a far better place just this moment, but I expect there is also no small measure of comfort in knowing her earthly body rests in view of the mountains by her farm. The very ones she would watch from the porch swing on all those calm, silent days.
I share her with you because sometimes I listen to the buzzing too much. I watch the pundits and read the columnists and hear their screaming, telling me all is lost and everything has changed and we are all heading toward an end from which we cannot turn away.
Hear me plain: Don’t listen to them.
Because the heart of this country does not beat in Washington, DC, nor does its soul lie in a seat of power, nor does its destiny lie in which party occupies which section of government.
No, those things all lie with people like my grandmother in-law, people like you and me, people who get up and go to work and love their tiny plot of Earth and whose hands are rough and hardened by loving and giving.