I often think of the legacy I will leave. I think of the decisions I make today and how it will affect my children and grandchildren to come. What am I doing today that will make their lives better than mine?
I’ve been thinking lately of my grandmother and her life. She recently turned 92 and is thriving and doing well! Her life has not been easy and she has made beautiful choices that my mother is living out as well as my sisters and I. She has made choices in her life that will shape the legacy she leaves.
My grandmother, Winifred (Winnie) Williams was born in September of 1923 and grew up in the town of Penyrheol in the south of Wales. She was the youngest daughter and at an early age she had a difficult journey decided for her. When she was a young child she was struck by a car and through this within a year became deaf. During the same year she developed Meningitis and was admitted to the hospital. The doctors and nurses did not know what she had. Her high fever caused her to thrash about, so they had to strap her arms and legs to the bed. A Scottish doctor happened to be at the hospital that day and knew exactly what my grandmother had. He diagnosed her with Meningitis; it was a miracle she lived. Throughout the rest of her life she would continue to deal with inflammation of the mastoids, the bone area behind the ears. During that era people treated those with hearing disabilities in a different way than they do now. Those in her life, family and community mistreated her because she was deaf. Somehow she never lost the strength that was inside of her and never succumbed to the abuse that was around her. She was determined to live a good life. At 14 years of age she joined a Sewing Apprenticeship Program and learned sewing as a trade. She would walk to and from school while hearing the air raids above. WWII was a time she remembers clearly as well as the sounds of bombs going off. She became a very good seamstress and it became her living. She ended up sewing the wardrobe for a famous concert pianist.
Winifred continued to live with her parents as her older brother and sister got married and started their own lives. Home life was tough and their parenting style different than most today and also difficult for myself to understand.
She would soon meet Thomas Lloyd, a dashing widower. They would later marry and start a family that would include 4 children, my mother being the youngest. People would often say, “I remember Winnie riding on the back of Thomas’ motorcycle around town. She was always dressed to perfection and always had 2 layer of curls in her hair!” The love of the motorcycle would eventually be the demise of their family. One day Thomas was riding his motorcycle, with his pregnant wife on the back and two sons in the sidecar when he lost control; he rode right into a concrete hydro pole, which caused him a serious head injury. That accident would change Thomas forever; he was never the same. He was treated as an outpatient for the next 4 years but his conditioned worsened which made him unsafe to live with and he was fully admitted to the hospital. Winifred would have to raise the children on her own. After Thomas was admitted the bailiff came right away and seized the house and all of its belongings. All that was left was Winifred’s sewing machine, a box of cutlery and the girls’ stuffed animals (one each). They were literally left on the sidewalk without warning. Winifred (I imagine devastated) gathered her children and went to live with her parents. Later her parents would move to their own flat leaving Winifred and the children in the house. They didn’t have much and times where tough for the Lloyd family but Winifred always found ways to make moments special for her children. She always made sure to have a birthday cake and trifle for them when it was their birthdays or donuts for special occasions. The children would eat the donuts so quickly that they soon realized they left none for their mother. Winifred was smart; she had stored one for herself in the pantry!
In March of 1976 Thomas passed away. He always remembered to send his love, Winifred, a Birthday card and Christmas card each year while he was in the hospital. The children and Winifred did not see him often due to family dynamics and input, but Winifred never lost her love for him and always spoke well of him; how kind and generous he had been to her and the children. Talking with Winifred today, you can tell she still misses him for time hasn’t separated her heart. She still wears the simple gold band on her wedding finger and for special occasions, wears her engagement ring.
There were only two times my mother remembers seeing my grandmother cry. One time was when the inflammation behind her ears was so bad that my mother and her sister, Mabel, made bread and butter poultice to help with the inflammation. The other time was when the power was shut off because she could not pay the bill. She needed the light so she could sew. She would now have to sew by candlelight. Winifred worked so hard, late into the night, to be able to provide for her family and put food on the table.
Winifred would watch 2 of her children move to Canada while the other 2 stayed more local. She would help with the care of her grandchildren, sowing and cooking for them. She was tough with us grandchildren, strict at times. She would sometimes be upset with us when she didn’t fully hear us when we spoke but we knew it was because it brought up memories of her past when she was made fun of because of her deafness. We also could not get away with much as she was the best lip reader in town and was privy to our “getting in to trouble” plans we thought we were making in secret.
Winifred had to walk through the passing of her husband, her parents, her sister and her daughter. When I hear of her speak of my aunt, her daughter, there is still pain and sadness in her voice, but most of all there is a question that surrounds the whole subject. She has been strong but underneath the strong surface you know the pain is so easily touchable.
Sitting with her on a Sunday afternoon will always lead you to watching the show “Songs of Praise” on the BBC and she is not shy with singing along to them. She has a very deep and husky voice and the Welsh passion coats every word that she sings. This is tradition for her and it hasn’t changed nor will it change anytime soon!
She is one that loves fashion. Being a seamstress, she was always up on the current fashions. She loves fabric, styles, patterns and all that goes with the world of seamstress’. To this day she is up on the current styles and looks. This I have inherited from her! She always dresses up to go out and looks her finest. I have never seen my grandmother wear pants (or trousers as they call them in the UK) and I never will. She will always wear a dress or a skirt; she’s the classy type!
Her life has been tough. The detail of it has never been extensive as she is not one to talk about negative things. She is a strong lady; she is tough in her ways but that does not shock me as she has had to push through the disadvantages life has thrown at her with the loss of hearing and with the hardship of her family home when growing up. She fell in love and yet the man that she fell in love changed. Walking through that, one can imagine would be a confusing, difficult transition that needed to happen. The whole while she would always honour Thomas Lloyd for she loved him and still loves him to this day. She has had to laugh, and laugh she does. Her laugh is as husky as the voice she sings with. Her laugh has depth, its depth speaks to the motto she lives with, “Well I can’t complain, I can’t complain at all.” She compares her life to those she knows or sees through the news of the world and her life is always the blessed life. Her perspective is positive and her viewpoint is one that she is still living on this earth and still has her health. She has never been one to hold a grudge, become bitter or angry. She is quick to shake it off and move on. Her faith is steadfast, simple and one that has always been. There is a trust in God that is so simple and unshakeable. She is one of His constant friends.
I think of all she has gone through (some of it I have not written as to honour), and I am amazed at who she is. I am thankful for who she is and look at her life and take note. I value her legacy (and it is still been moulded as she is still on this earth).
LEGACY = anything passed down from the past; property or money left (dictionary.com)
Even though my Nana (I actually call her Mamgu, which is Welsh for Nana) is still alive and has many, many more years left on this earth (she is as strong and healthy as they come), her legacy that she is creating is something I am contemplating. She probably won’t leave me any monetary gift or even property but what she leaves me is something worth more. The gift (lessons) of kindness, perspective, perseverance, strength, discipline and forgiveness is something that money could never purchase for me.
So I sit here and move from thinking of the legacy I want to leave my children and grandchildren and I think of the legacy she is leaving me. I ask myself, am I living up to that legacy? Am I doing it justice? And by doing it justice, I mean am I taking those “gifts/lessons” and incorporating them into my life and taking them to the next level? If she did all that hard work in her life, to not let life’s circumstances turn her into a bitter and unforgiving person and represent that to her children and grandchildren, and I decide to live my life in a way that does not incorporate all of that, have I thrown her legacy away? Have I devalued it? Have I brushed it off and decided to live my life the way I want to? I hope not. She fought hard for her children and for her children’s children. I want to live my life in a way that shows that I have watched her story, her journey and looked at her hardships and her victories and I have incorporated the lessons into my life. I value her so much and the legacy she is leaving that I will honour it and hold it precious. I cannot gain those lessons or the richness of them from anywhere else.
Yes I want to leave a wonderful legacy for those to come in my line but I also want to do my grandmother’s legacy justice and honour it through my life by the choices I make. I honour all her hard work and I thank God that He put me in Winifred Edna Lloyd’s lineage. I am rich because of that.