Emma Hamel, my paternal grandmother, died recently at 104. Meme was a grand lady, full of yeast and vinegar till the end. She survived the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. She outlived the Thousand-Year Reich and the Soviet Union. She witnessed the advent of the automobile, the airplane and the Apollo spacecraft. She went from outdoor privy to indoor plumbing and from kerosene lamps to incandescent bulbs.
One thing that never changed was her faith in God and the Roman Catholic Church. She passed both on to her extensive family by word and example, and she clung to them tenaciously through the vicissitudes of a long life. She will be greatly missed by the hundreds who knew and loved her.
The other Emma Hamel is my two-year-old granddaughter, pictured in the banner above. Who knows what marvels she will see as the 21st century sweeps her forward. She’s a bundle of precocious possibilities, more curious than a kitten and twice as cute.
My grandmother and granddaughter are at opposite ends of a diameter running through the Circle of Life. The young Emma is on her way to the top of the Ferris wheel, from which vantage point she can survey the whole park. The older Emma has reached the bottom and been asked to exit the ride.
And what a ride it’s been! As rabbi Jerry Seinfeld once said,
Life is truly a ride. We’re all strapped in and no one can stop it. When the doctor slaps your behind, he’s ripping your ticket and away you go. As you make each passage from youth to adulthood to maturity, sometimes you put your arms up and scream, sometimes you just hang on to the bar in front of you. But the ride is the thing. I think the most you can hope for at the end of life is that your hair’s messed, you’re out of breath, and you didn’t throw up.”
Seinfeld is wrong about that last part. Meme hoped for a whole lot more, which I trust she is now enjoying.