I've really struggled with what to write this week. My great grandmother, or Nana-great passed away this weekend at the age of 96. I wanted to write something for her, but had to wrestle with the fact that due to her dementia and aging, I didn't truly know the women that she was. After attending her funeral however, I have realized that I see a lot of Margaret Gilmour in the rest of my family. So while I don't have many memories of my Nana-great, this week I want to write about her legacy.
I have grown up surrounded by powerful women. My mother, aunts, and grandmother are all incredibly thoughtful, independent, courageous, and loving. After hearing my Nana-great described as a "force of nature" at her funeral, I am beginning to realize I see her legacy everyday.
When asked why she got two masters, one in reading, on in special education, Nana-great once said "I just love helping people." I see her love for teaching and working with children with special needs continue on in the teaching careers of my mom and Nona. I see her love for helping others in the way my mom and aunts volunteer their time and have passed on that commitment to their children.
I see the fierce strong-will I have heard described so many times in all of the women in my family. In our passion for our causes, in our arguments, in our determination to succeed. I see the leadership that she used in DAR, teachings and church in my Nona's and Mom's ability to command a room.
I've heard that she never went anywhere without "her face on", including of course, her red lipstick. She taught my Nona how to dress like a debutante and how to make a good impression, and Nona in turn passed on the importance of looking the part when you need to, to her children and later her grandchildren. I see her in my aunts' love of makeup and jewelry and in my sister's fashion sense.
Nana-great was an independent spirit. She raised three children while my great-grandpa served in the military, was an extremely educated woman, had a successful career, and even traveled abroad without her husband. She taught my Nona the importance of a woman being able to take care of herself. I see her legacy in the independent, passionate women that surround me.
Throughout her adult life Nana-great had two great loves. Her family and the St. Lawrence River. I see those loves reflected around me; in my family's loyalty to each other, in my cousins' joy when they go on boat rides, in my Nona's stories of summers on the island and in over a hundred years of family history stored in photo album, ledgers, and journals.
More than I ever have before, I see her legacy when I look in the mirror. Learning more about the woman that my Nana-great was, I see her in myself. I see her in my love of education and books, in my stubbornness that is both a strength and a weakness, in my love for the river, for my family, and for volunteering. I see her leadership and strength developing in myself as I look for guidance to my mother. Her life was 96 years full, and her legacy will live even longer. I hope that my children become the strong, capable, and graceful people that my great-grandmother was.