Strangely, some of us don't even know your name. When I tried to refresh my memory and read about your life in my Bible, I discovered that you were missing. I only found your name in the Book of Saints.
Saint or not, you lived once in Nazareth and educated your daughter Mary. How else could she have been a good mommy to her firstborn, Jesus? But it's the other parts of your story that interest me.
I imagine your farewell to your heavily pregnant daughter and your son-in-law Joseph — your throat tight and your smile quivering. I envisage you watching Joseph offering his hands as a stirrup to Mary beside the donkey. You had to trust him from then on. There was nothing you could have done to hold her back. What’s more, I picture you holding the door jamb to keep yourself from running after them. There was danger on the road, after all. When and if they arrived safely in Bethlehem, you could not have been there to hold your daughter’s hand, cut the cord and hear that first cry. I hope that your husband Joachim didn't tell you to be brave, though. I hope that he held your hand and waved with you until both Mary and Joseph were specks in the distance.
How do we parents say farewell to our beloved children, when they go off to work overseas, look for far-flung adventure, go to Indian Residential Schools, find or offer medical treatment far away, flee a war or serve in the military? I don’t think it’s ever easy.
What were the last words that you whispered to your dear daughter, Anne? What token or gift did you place in her hands? What instructions did you give to Joseph, when, I hope, you looked him square in the eye? Did you pack a basket of food for their journey? Was it you who made the swaddling clothes? Did you ever get to hold Jesus in your whole life?
Dear Anne, so much has changed since you were alive 2,000 years ago. But in the end, nothing of importance has changed when it comes to loving our kids and grandchildren.
In the Jewish tradition of your time, grandchildren were considered the "crown of old age." You would have read that in the Book of Proverbs. Like cultures the world over, there was an expectation that grandparents and grandchildren were connected in special, spiritual ways. Did this enter your mind as you waved goodbye that Nazareth morning, listening to the sound of plodding hooves and watching the donkey carry your daughter out of sight?
As grandparents, we still have traditional responsibilities yet cannot fulfill them at times. We carry the family and cultural stories, and remember what our own grandparents cooked or how they soothed a bee sting naturally. If our own children have died, our role is even more vital for the little ones. I think of Grandmothers for Grandmothers and the mothers of Missing and Murdered Women and Girls feeding their grandchildren with food, stories and so much more.
In the Book of Saints, I discovered that you are the Matron Saint of sculptors, rag-sellers, launderers, embroiderers, tailors, navigators, illuminators, carders, gold-workers, makers of lace, socks, gloves and brooms! And dear Anne, you must be the Saint of all grandparents and grandchildren, too.
This is the tenth in Carolyn Pogue’s “Letter to a Spiritual Ancestor” series.
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