Last Sunday I spent time with two of my elders - My Gran and David Suzuki (I also spent the day with my Mum – but it wouldn’t be very smart of me to call her an elder now would it).
My time with David Suzuki wasn’t exactly one-on-one. I joined a couple of thousand other people in a packed Opera House to hear him speak.
His inspirational talk was based on his latest book ‘The Legacy’: an elder’s vision for our sustainable future. His reflections on how we got where we are today and his vision for a better future well and truly deserved the standing ovation he received.
For me, the take-home-message was about the meaning of life.
He spoke with fondness of the month he spent with his dying father.
"Dad was never a wealthy man, yet while dying, he said a number of times, "David, I am so rich". In all our weeks together, he never talked about a set of fancy clothes, a big car, or a special house - that's just stuff.
All we talked about were family, friends, and neighbours, and the things that we had done together. That was his wealth - the memories and relationships built over a lifetime - and in those things, he was truly a rich man."
I knew before that night that life isn't about 'stuff', but on that night the reality slapped me in the face more than it ever had.
That morning I had visited my Gran to say goodbye.
My Gran in an article from a 1994 issue of Gardens & Backyards Magazine (the predecessor of Gardening Australia) where my grandparents garden is described as a 'suburban farm'. Find the full article here.
My Gran was the one who taught me to sew and garden. She and my Grandpa were the ones to give me my first chooks. They even built me my first shade house when I was ten so that I had a space to propagate my own plants. I'm pretty certain that my love of nature, and particularly plants, was inherited from my Gran.
So you can imagine how much she means to me.
I held her hand, said thank you for being such a good Gran and told her stories about the sewing and gardening I’ve been doing. I kissed her goodbye.
She looked calm, relaxed and content. I think she knew who I was for a brief moment or two. But mostly she rattled on about a lovely little rabbit she once knew.
I found the experience comforting. I'm not saddened by the reality that she may not have long left. She has a legacy and it lives on...
Her legacy, for me (as I’m sure the legacy left by someone varies among recipients), was the way she lived her life. She and my grandfather lived a simple and sustainable life. They lived in the house that my grandfather built. They ate from their garden, they mended, they made, they lived without much but yearned for little.
I imagined myself one day 'in the death zone', as David Suzuki calls the final years of one's life. All that will matter then are my memories, the love that I share with friends and family, and my legacy.
I don't yet know what my legacy will be. But I do know it won't be material. A legacy of a big house or money in the bank won't last long. Maybe one generation? I want a legacy that will live on for generations to come.
Like my Grans. I now see parts of 'the way she lived her life' in my life. And in turn i'm certain Little Eco will carry aspects though to her life and so on. I know my Gran's legacy is living on in me and my child and i'm pretty certain it will live on in many generations beyond that.