Five Generations: A Legacy of Love – by Laura Urista
One of my most treasured possessions is a black-and-white photograph of five generations of women in my family. Over the years several people have mentioned to me how unique and rare it is to have a five-generation photo. Pictured here are my great-great grandmother Mietz (seated in the middle), my great-grandmother Fiebick (seated on the far left), my grandmother Olga (affectionately called “Grandma Dee Dee”) and my mom, Charlotte, holding my oldest sister, Sandy, on her lap. This photo was taken in the summer of 1946.
I wish I knew more about these wonderful ladies of my lineage. I do know that great-great-Grandma Mietz and great-Grandma Fiebick both lived to be over 100 years old. Grandma Dee Dee lived to be 96 and my mom lived to be 86. Grandma Dee Dee used to tell me she was “thankful we come from good German stock.” In the late 1800s my great-great grandparents were among the many “Germans from Russia” who fled to the United States in hopes of a better life for their family. They homesteaded in Wells County North Dakota, near the town of Fessenden. Two of my sisters still live within a few miles of that old homestead. My parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents are all buried in a cemetery on the outskirts of Fessenden.
I enjoy watching the “Little House on the Prairie” shows, and I regularly record them. Set in the late 1800s in Minnesota and North Dakota, these stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder give me a glimpse of what the lives of my great-great grandparents might have been like—homesteading, farming and raising a family amid unsettled land, harsh winters, wild animals, in an area still inhabited by Native American tribes. I can’t even imagine the hardships they faced every day of their lives, just to survive and raise their family—the next generation.
I feel so blessed that I had a close relationship with Grandma Dee Dee. I can still hear her soft German accent as she sang a lullaby to me: “Du, du, ligest mir in herzen” (you, you live in my heart). When I was a teenager, she left me with many cherished words of wisdom that have served me well in life.
I especially remember one time my dad (overly zealous for the “one true church”—the one he belonged to, of course) ridiculed Grandma Dee Dee for giving a little money to several small churches in Fessenden. He said she was foolishly “Casting pearls before swine.”
I felt bad for Grandma, and after Dad left the room, I asked why she didn’t stand up to him. She smiled at me and said, “It’s more important to be kind than right. Don’t worry, dear. God knows what He’s doing with my money. I think all these churches are doing a little good for our town in their own way. God will use it for good.”
Those words deeply resonated with me, and the sharp contrast of the kindness shown by Grandma Dee Dee compared to the judgmental, critical spirit displayed by my dad made a strong impact on my young mind.
What’s so important about being “right” anyway? I know so many folks who continue to loudly argue with others long after they’ve made their point, all in an effort to have the last word and be “right.” It’s almost as if they are addicted to being “right” while smugly concluding everyone else is “wrong.”
And of course, legalistic religion further fans the flames of that addiction to be right and appear better than others, so that those enslaved by toxic religion really do believe God “is on their side.”
Kindness—A Fruit of the Spirit
Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. No amount of being theologically correct, or belief in the “right” dogmas can impart kindness.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25).
Christ lives in us, and as we surrender to him, he loves through us—enabling us to treat others with the Spirit-filled heavenly kindness, grace and love that’s beyond our human efforts to produce on our own.
Now I’m a grandma to the next generation of girls in our family. My two young granddaughters call me “Gaga.” It is my great hope that I will be faithful in passing along a legacy of love to them. I pray that someday they will come to see their “Gaga” as an example of love, grace and kindness and a source of wisdom—like Grandma Dee Dee was for me.
Laura Urista is the managing editor of Plain Truth and Christianity Without the Religion magazines.