Resilience

Last week I spoke of my pleasure in our children and grandchildren. I want to add that I sometimes watch the latter nine with a twinge of fear, because they have most of their lives ahead of them and who knows what will come their way?

image002Recently I was sent a photo of my grandmother Katherine (Quiring) Doerksen and her one-year-old daughter, taken in 1915, probably for her husband Johann, far away on the Russian front of the First World War, where he served with the Red Cross. I’m drawn to the face of my young grandmother, and what I see of both innocence and strength. I know what she didn’t know at the time of the photo, which is that the little girl will die at a year and two months, the husband and father still gone, the mother alone with her grief. I also know that she will get malaria, that the Russian Revolution is coming, that she will be poor, become an immigrant, bear another seven children, and lose a second child to death not long after arriving in Canada.

I’ve been reading Mary Pipher’s Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age. I’m liking it; it’s gentle with stories and encouragement. One word I’m especially noticing is resilience. We need resilience for new stages, new situations. We can learn resilience and we can draw on what we’ve learned already. Although I didn’t know my grandmother well, my dad spoke of his mother with admiration and affection. She was said to have a deep faith in God. This must have been the resilience that carried her through her circumstances. I hope for resilience too in the last stages of my life, and for my grandchildren beginning to learn it in theirs.

10 thoughts on “Resilience

  1. I like your words “I hope for resilience in the last stages of my life”. LIfe teaches us a lot about resilience, so hopefully in our last stage of life we can draw on that. Some go so quickly and quietly without a word to anyone, like my brother John, who passed away in one day at age 70 without warning. There resilience is needed by those caught up in the unexpected event, not the one passing on. I am surprised at my physical reaction more than my emotional one!

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    • That was so unexpected, wasn’t it, and the kind of loss that really throws a person into unexpected grief. Interesting, that you felt this physically more than emotionally. Wishing you continued strength as you mourn John and as you and your siblings support one another through this hard time.

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  2. I am so happy you have a Blog, Dora. You write about such meaningful things, and often, things that are so relevant to me…just now. Resilience…yes it’s what we need…and faith in God to get us through the tough times. Having recently lost my dear friend…and cousin, Susan with relatively short notice, I have been struggling with these things. It just didn’t seem right…yes…she was 80 years of age…and legally blind, but to have pancreatic cancer take her in 3 weeks really “threw me for a loop”. I am still processing and working through this. Thank you for your writing today.

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    • I’m so so sorry to hear this. (I’m assuming you mean Susan Ratzlaff. I had not heard that.) A big hug of sympathy. You are a resilient person, I know that, and part of your resilience now will be feeling exactly what you feel and remembering and everything else that goes along with grief, especially when it hits us so suddenly and hard. And sometimes I write about what I’m needing to learn at the moment. Exactly this too. Thank you for your comment.

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  3. Amen. I love that photo of your grandmother when she was young. It brings home her reality in a way words can add to but not replace. Your reflection on it rings true for me as well.

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  4. Yes. The grandchildren. We feel for them in a deep, subliminal way. My three closest college friends and I have all read Mary Pipher’s book too. I love your words to Joyce above. They apply to all of us and to the generations to follow: “You are a resilient person, I know that, and part of your resilience now will be feeling exactly what you feel and remembering and everything else that goes along with grief, especially when it hits us so suddenly and hard.”

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    • Thank you Shirley. I’m so glad to hear that you and your friends have also read Mary Pipher’s book. There was nothing startlingly new in it perhaps, but for me was the book of the hour, as it were, a gentle encouragement to draw from wells already dug and to draw deeper.

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