I’m posting this piece on what would have been the 60th Wedding Anniversary of my beloved parents. May their love continue to live through our family. Miss them still. Rest in peace, Mom and Dad.
When my father died, not only did I lose that last living parent, but my role as the eldest child and daughter ended. I was still the eldest but now had to steer the ship to shore. I like that analogy since Dad was a sea captain and did his share of navigating the waters.
And with Dad’s death, I became the family matriarch.
A matriarch is a woman who is head and ruler of her family and descendants. Was this me?
It didn’t sink in, my changing role that is, until after Dad’s funeral. That’s when my shared executor powers with my brother started becoming real as we worked to close Dad’s estate and file final papers. But being an executor has nothing to do with the power of a matriarch.
So what kind of power did I have? And what about the other matriarchs in our family before me?
My maternal grandmother was the matriarch of her family in an obvious way. She had a presence and was quite charismatic, at least from my vantage point. My grandfather, by contrast, was a man of few words, but their “voice” was united in a Nana sort of way. And as we all know, behind a great leader (or matriarch), there is another great person. That was my Grandpa. He was the power behind her.
I strive to honour my grandmother and others who are gone but have made an impact on my life. I will carry them with me throughout the remainder of my life. There is a bittersweet realization to all of this. As an elder and matriarch, it means I’ve lived long enough to have accumulated a priceless fortune of family history. Someday, I will leave this world as well, and I will be a memory for the ones remaining, just as they have been for me. That is my legacy to them.
I remember a quote from the Spiderman movie: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” It reminds me of what my role as matriarch needs to be: to keep our remaining family together in thought and action, to be present to each other even if thousands of miles separate us, and to love because in the end there is no better way to live than through love.
May the souls of all our departed loved ones, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Copyright (c) 2020 all rights reserved, Jackie Kierulf.