Few men will leave their name so indelible as this conquering ruler. And yes, their is a batting about of impressions that disperse, resonate, and distort the initial life through the halls of history and human cultural impressions. Perhaps Hugo is right that the light of history illumines the actions of a man. But really, what is left of the man in a memory? Without being known in personal relationship, the substance passes quickly, and the name comes an empty symbol which takes on the properties and opinions of the user.
I thought of my Grams this morning who died June 13, 2015; Compared with the Battle of Waterloo June 18, 1815.
When I thought of Grams, Inez Simon. I thought of her reassuring and encouraging voice that led me in childhood and through becoming a man: even in crisis she was a steadfast harbor. She played with me and made things exciting with cards, and nuts, and Dr. Pepper, a big back yard, an interesting attic, and the summer joys of childhood.
I thought of her life of service – brushing of the dust from her sheet as she arose from that 1930s farm bed, but “not knowing she had it bad.” Then marrying a man who would father her 4 children, go off to war, and lose his mind and eventually his family, and Grams would have to work two jobs, and so my mother learned to cook and care for others. Grams would say: “You do what you have to do. It’s no use complaining,” when things got hard. She wasn’t surprised when hard times came, but felt strong compassion for others in their pain. Then in her last 3 years when she came to stay in our town, I remember walks with Kizzie, stopping by Grams’ apartment where she would bring a bowl of water for the dog, and we would sit and talk about family and friends – that reassuring voice and weathered attitude still strong at 90 years.
The existence of Grams is not dispersed or distorted. Her life may have been an inch wide in the sea of the billions of people that live and that have ever lived, but it was a mile deep, and lasts in its high fidelity, as a meaningful memory engraved on my soul. And my life’s core has been permanently shaped by her presence and legacy, unlike the impersonal surface waves of political history. Like my Savior, she did not need riches, fame, or platform to transform the lives of the people she touched, and the people that the touched would touch: only love.