Feb 292012

Dear Grandmothers,

                I write to you all. To my two living grandmothers: Jacqueline and Carol, mothers of my mother and father. And to my Great Grandmothers who have passed on: Smithy, Ethel, Eva, Clara, and to all the great-great grandmothers I have never met. To the grandmothers that stretch back generation to generation, all the grandmothers who connect me to the circle of womanhood and humanity since the beginning of time. 

I am writing to tell you that I miss your voices around the fire, sitting with the young ones and telling stories, and cooking and quilting with your beautifully worn and sunned hands, and sitting in silence with the strength and beauty of a mountain. I am writing to tell you that I wish I grew up with you, day to day, that I long to hear the wisdom you have in your being, the stories, the recipes, the secrets that your mothers passed on to you.

I write to tell you that I have been ignorant in discounting the sacred wisdom that you hold in your bones from living year through year in these times of deep change. I write to tell you that we all need the wisdom of our elders, so that we can remember, so that we can choose not to forget. These times are so turbulent and uncertain. Here we are on a course towards an unknown future, amidst an explosion of technology and individualization, and our modern ways tell us to forget the wisdom of our grandmothers, to look to the young ones, the fast ones, the new ideas. They tell us to put you in homes and visit you every once in awhile, they tell us to work, work, work until we are no longer useful and then we too, separated from the new generations, await an end in a lonely institution, cared for by strangers, able so easily to lose our minds because we have no one to share our stories, our recipes, and our wisdom with.

I am writing to tell you, enough is enough. I need your wisdom, I love it, I value it, and I respect it. I am listening. I am ready to look towards you. I am ready to admit that I do not know it all and I need the shelter of your arms and the beauty in your heart. I want to learn from you, wise elder women, so that I may someday become one of you: surrounded by family and the new generations, each wrinkle speaking of generosity, each crease a smile from years past. So stand in your glorious wisdom, share your knowledge, and the secrets of love and of loss, I am ready to listen.

With Love Always,

Your Granddaughter


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Photo Credit: Madeline Merritt

  4 Responses to “A Letter To Our Grandmothers”

  1. I have been praying to my ancestors as I have never done before so this absolutely beautiful heartfelt letter full of longing and surrender is so perfect for me to read today. Thank you all

  2. I am a grandmother myself now and feel very strongly the connection between my little grandson, his parents and my grandparents. It is not only that he looks like his father, grandfather and his great-grandfather but we know that he will learn, as we learned how to live on this earth and show love and kindness to all that he encounters.

    My memories of my grandmother – I was her first grandchild – are of days gone by when everything we ate came from the smallholding she and my grandfather managed. She hardly left the village where she went after marriage and knew virtually nothing of what was going on in the world outside. For me, those summer holidays with her were a haven of quiet happiness and though she left us in 1965, I still feel the love that she bestowed on me.

  3. This is so beautiful and brings tears of longing. Jonathan, thank you for sharing your love and gratitude for our Grandmothers too. All of my Grandmothers are gone now, and this is a nice reminder to connect to their wisdom and feel that my heart is filled with gratitude. Much Love, Kathy

  4. At the Ancient Wisdom Rising conference last May, Shri Vivek Godboli, a 17th generation Brahmin fire keeper–he keeps the fire for Guru Mai, head of Sidda Yoga–was demonstrating fire pujas. As he chanted mantras and poured ghee into the flames, I found myself drifting. I had a vision of my grandmothers from my mother’s lineage–an endless line of strong dark haired women who looked in my eyes and smiled lovingly as they passed. It was a marvelous vision.

    The next day, during a sunrise meditation session, as Scott Sheerin played his flute and Swinomish elder Ray Williams softly sang a morning song, the vision returned. This time the Grandmothers were putting delicious food in my mouth and filling my hands with rich jewels and opening my eyes to the beauty of the world we live in.

    It struck me that without each of those women, without their sacrifice and hard work, without their giving birth to their daughters and sons, without the suffering and joy of their lives, I would not be here. None of us would be. And even though my ancestors came as conquerors to this land, without the lives of all who came before us–no matter what crimes they may have committed–we could not be here in the beauty and awareness of this life. And because of their lives we have the opportunity to listen again to the land and remember our relationship to the living earth.

    In a way this a vast weight of guilt and grief—over what we have done to the land and the people, the plants and animals, the forests and river—lifted off me. Now I know that my work is to live, to continue listening so that our people can renew our bonds to the earth.

    The lives of our grandmothers were given so that we could come to this moment. We must remember and honor those lives and the gift of life itself, the holy mystery that engendered our lives and, even now, supports us in every step we take, every breath we breathe, every sip we drink, every life we eat.

    Jonathan Merritt

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