Monday, 5 March 2012

Generation... What's that about then?

Plus thoughts about Mum

When I was a child I found the concept of generation difficult to understand. I knew that older people were once young because they were always telling me so, but I didn’t believe that they really used to run round and play like I did. I wondered how you moved from one generation to the next and then when I reached my 50s and my Mum was approaching her 80s the full significance of generation hit me. Older generations die. This rarely happens in one go and so inevitably one member will be left after all the cousins, brothers and sisters have gone. Yesterday was the sort of day for thinking about this because it was my Mother’s Stone Setting and Memorial Service.

I’m typing this now with the sun streaming in through the window which is a bit annoying because yesterday it poured incessantly. We didn’t let the weather put a damper on things. This was our opportunity to celebrate Mum’s life. My sister sadly wasn’t well enough to be with us but other members of our family had travelled from all over the country. Some had arrived for the weekend. Others had driven through the rain from Manchester, from Devon, just for the day. I have a lovely family.

I have lovely friends too. They knew how anxious I was and several weeks ago they presented me with a fait accompli. They were ordering, preparing and serving all the food for a buffet lunch. So while they worked at our house we went to the cemetery. I unveiled the memorial stone and, after a short service in the Prayer House, I read a eulogy to Mum. It would have been easy to ask someone else to do it but I had been so close to Mum and I had things I wanted to say.

I wanted to tell the congregation about the four generations of family that mourned her. There’s only one family member remaining from Mum’s generation. There used to be so many of them. She told me recently how sad she was to be the last. It’s a lonely, and no doubt frightening, place to be.

I talked about my generation… although I didn’t mention that we will soon be that 'Oldest Generation'. I talked about the third layer of generation and how, just before Dad died in 1977 he wished that he could live to see his grandchildren grow. Mum was fortunate. She not only saw, she helped them grow. She did love her grandchildren.

As for the fourth generation, he’s not yet two and will sadly grow up with no memory of Great Grandma. My son brought him to see Mum two days before she died. The baby put his hand out to Mum. Mum put her hand out to the baby and they stayed like that for several long minutes. He may never remember it but I will never forget.

What does generation mean to you?


  1. What a touching moment for your Mum to see the baby. So glad the day was what you wanted

  2. Nothing prepares us for our parents getting old and then passing on. It's our life tragedy to watch this happen. The different generations are like a ladder, aren't they? We step up one at a time, although we never imagine we'll reach the top. I'm so glad your Mum saw the baby.

  3. Rosalind , a very touching post especially the baby going to visit your mum. Nice of your friends to help out like that. I couldn't believe it when I read this because it's been in my mind for a while to blog about this. All the older generation of my family are gone and I have moved up to being the elder and I just can't get my head around it. We are definitely in sync!

  4. Your mum is lucky to have such a close and loving family. It's the small things, like her moment with her great-grandchild, that really matter.

  5. Oh Rosalind, what a moving post-that last paragraph brought tears to my eyes. I'm sorry about your mother. The bond between grandparents/ great-grandparents and their grandchildren/ great-grandchildren is so amazing and lovely to watch. Best wishes.X

  6. Nice post. You might like this poem about mothers.

  7. That connection between generations is the thing that keeps families bound and rooted.

    I realize now where we in Jamaica get that tradition of putting on the tombstone after a period of time has passed. It's usually done with family members gathered and there is always food afterward.

  8. I've always viewed generations as different world views. I see the world differently than my parents, and them from my grandparents, because of what was going on when we were young and forming. As for family generations, it is sad when the older one starts to go. That's happening to me now, slowly, but I know it coming and it'll be hard to deal with. Many blessings upon your mother.

  9. The concept of generations is comforting to me, like a reassurance that things will go on when I'm gone. I understand how much it meant to you to deliver your mother's eulogy. I did the same for my mother.

  10. Hi Ali, it was indeed a memorable few minutes.

    Hi Susan, I like your analogy of a ladder. Just to make it clear, Mum had seen the baby a number of times but she knew it was her last time to see him.

    Hi Cassam, I love the way that we are in synch with out thinking and blogging. Although I still have one aunt alive I do now feel like one of the elders. *shoulders groan with weight*

    Hi Annalisa, yes, family was the most important thing to Mum.

  11. Hi Anita, Mum certainly had that kind of bond with her Grandchildren.

    Hi Carole, thank you for sharing.

    Hi J. L., I find it really interesting that we have such similar traditions and the day always involves the family and food (lots of food... in this case more food than we could eat!)

    Hi Gwen, I hadn't thought about generation in terms of different world views before but yes, you're so right.

    Hi Susan, It's good to see that you read the eulogy for your Mother too. So many people tried to tell me that I would get too upset and should ask someone else to do it but it wasn't upsetting. It was reassuring and I'm glad I did it.

  12. What a beautiful post Rosalind. I'm so glad the day went well, in spite of the weather. To me, generation is best illustrated when I hear myself saying the same things to my daughters that my Mother said to me. You know, those outrageous and unreasonable things that I was never ever going to saddle my kids with!

  13. You have described a very positive experience which also brings tears to my eyes to imagine. Generations grow up so quickly but these events help to give the whole thing some continuity perhaps. Perhaps the next generation down is mentally preparing for this too.

  14. Oh Rosalind what a beautiful memory to hold and what a special child. He will be blessed. I too have come to the realization of being the older generation, though not yet the oldest. But that day is coming and sooner than I would like. A wonderful post Rosalind.

  15. Oh dear, you made me cry. One memory I will always treasure is when we brought out little Sophie in to see her Great Grandma in the hospital. Great Grandma was too sick to speak, but she opened her eyes long enough to see Sophie and pucker her lips for a kiss. That was her last action. After that she slipped into a coma and died a couple days later. I'm thankful for the legacy she left us, but yes, it was difficult for her being one of the "last ones" of her generation. She missed her husband terribly.

  16. What a beautiful picture and tender memory you have to treasure, Rosalind.

    When my father passed away three months ago, I was surprised that of his four great-grandchildren, it was the youngest - just four years old - who was most affected. And she still talks about him often. It is such a gift to know that she carries a special place for him in her young heart.

  17. That is definitely a memory to treasure. Lovely.

    My parents emigrated to Canada (from Scotland), so we didn't grow up with a lot of relatives around. I'm thrilled that as our family grows, we stay close and the newest generations will have lots of generations to hold on to.

  18. I admire you for hosting such a lovely dedication for your mum, though I know it couldn't have been easy. I'm sorry that the weather didn't cooperate, but you did your best to deliver a loving tribute. Very touching that she got to see her great grandson. Julie

  19. Hi Ros .. my thoughts go the other way as none of us have children. My uncle did the family trees for us - as we have an interesting paternal family and in fact maternal family - dating from 1978 back 220 years or so ...

    I would like to add some flesh to the bare bones of the family trees - grandmother and grandfather, as well as the Cornish side of the family ..

    I certainly have an interest to go back - because I have no reason to go forward - except to give a little more life to 'names' for those relatives who are following on.

    History is fascinating - and I'm so pleased that you had such a lovely day despite the dreaded weather.

    I'm certain the family were looking down and were sending clouds of love back to you all .. the rainbows certainly have been recently ...

    Lovely read with some touching memories .. great thoughts - Hilary

  20. What you didn't mention is that Grandma's great grandchild is named after her late husband. So there really was quite a connection at that last moment. I really felt that Granddad was there with us during that moment when they looked at each other so intensely.

  21. Hi Sarah, I know only too well what you mean. I can hear myself doing it far too often.

    Hi Susan, yes I think it is a case of looking at the next generation and learning how to do it, how to cope.

    Hi Ann and thanks. He is a special little boy... but then I’m biased!

    Hi Amy, what a sad story about your Grandma but at least you know that she died with the face of a much loved member of her family in her mind.

    Hi Ruth and thank you. His great-grandchild has a treasured memory to carry with her.

    Hi Jemi, it’s so important for families to be close by. My children were able to visit their grandparents weekly. I’m only sad that our children are now living at a distance (but at least they’re within the UK).

    Hi Julie, it was easier than I’d expected. I just concentrated on the words and didn’t have to think about the meaning because I’d gone through all that when I wrote it.

    Hi Hilary, we’ve been working on our family tree but it feels like a one-dimensional exercise until you have the sort of day we had on Sunday and then the layers on the family tree turn into 3D.

    Hi Martin, what an amazing thought that Dad might have been there with us. It was certainly a highly emotional few minutes.