It’s been nearly 6 months since my grandmother on my mom’s side passed away at the ripe old age of 88. Taking care of her the last 8 years of her life was the hardest job I ever did, but one of the most rewarding indeed. It was a honor to be able to let her live the last few of her years surrounded by great grandchildren and her beloved dog at home. Being in her home for 50 years gave her a decent quality of life, despite her many illnesses including diabetes and dementia.
She was hard headed and fiercely independent her entire life but also one with great love and a vision for her children and latter generations. She always told me that she never had a chance to go to college since she was one of the younger siblings in her family. Because her family was very poor, it was customary for the younger ones had to work to help pay for the oldest child to go to school. She always felt like she was denied that chance to make a better life for herself.
It was through this sense of frustration that she became determined to give her children opportunities to go to college. My grandma and grandfather worked multiple jobs to earn money to get my mom and her sister through college. Grandma did not want to have her kids feel what it was like to be poor. My grandparents persevered and my mom became a teacher and my aunt became a nurse. Both entered professions that my grandmother had dreamed of pursuing but never had the chance.
My grandparents giving spirit and vision did not end with their kids. It continued on to the next generation. When the grandkids were born and both grandparents were free on the weekends, they too helped on the farm. The farm was a whole family event that really embodied the concept of laulima, or many hands working together. If they weren’t watching us, they washed papayas or were lining boxes with newspapers. My grandpa had great carpentry skills so his job was to cut lumber and build bins for picking papayas. So many relatives would join us on the farm to do something to help out. The farm really created a tight knit family to help succeed.
The entire family believed in the farm and got together to make it work. My dad had a vision of what he wanted for his farm. Grandma Hee had a vision about what she wanted for her children and grandchildren too. Like my dad and his belief in the value of hard work, my grandma felt the same way. You had to have a vision of what you want and be willing to do the hard work to make it happen. They both led by example by walking the talk.
Now that I have children of my own, I too have aspirations of making a good life for them. I want them to have opportunities through education to make a life for themselves and become contributors to this world in some way. I’ve been taught this and hope to pass this on to my children.
This Mother’s Day, I really don’t need any fancy material gifts because I have everything I need. I have the best gifts already in three young lives. I will continue to open their minds about the world around them and hopefully continue to fill it with wonder and a sense of curiosity. Someday they will be doing something good to help make a real difference in someone’s life. That is my wish this Mother’s Day!