For My Grandmother’s 80th Birthday

How can I, in a single address, describe what my grandmother has taught me? I might mention my grandmother training me to pee on ants for accuracy; known in the ant world as the great flood of 1983. I may invoke a kitchen stocked with sweets, cookies, and love; a life filled with giving to and creating for others. I remember my grandmother’s attempt to turn us into language purists: ‘Julle moet nie, julle tale ‘mix’ nie.’ I have the greatest respect for these moments. Each a vital tile in the great mosaic of memories that is my grandmother. No one can take these memories away from me. How does one describe such a precious life?

A valuable lesson I learnt from my grandmother was faith; less a lesson I learn than one observed. Through my grandmother’s life, I have seen lived faith. Although our perspectives on faith differ she always focusses on what unites us. My grandmother’s lived faith shows an intimate relationship with the Triune God that surrounds us despite our differences. Thank you, grandma.

Faith allows my grandmother lightheartedness. I remember many occasions where you laughed at yourself. Your lightheartedness created for me—and I think I speak for us all—a vast open space for uniqueness. I can always engage you with anything, and you would love me. You even apologise when you think you were wrong; a  rare humble beauty. Thank you, grandma.

I mentioned only your two most important attributes, but there are many more. Still, I would like to leave you with a phrase my grandma engrained in me; an expression of comfort. A Shakespearian phrase, ‘This above all: to thine own self be true.’ In sharing this phrase, my grandmother, inspired me to live a full life that gives, makes multiple mistakes, prays, hopes, and loves uniqueness. Thank you, grandma, that you live this phrase. When I look around the table today, I can only confirm, ‘This above all: to thine own self be true’.

Author Details

Calvyn du Toit

Calvyn C. du Toit is a PhD-candidate in Christian Spirituality at the University of South Africa (UNISA), and a Research Associated in the Department of Christian Dogmatics and Ethics at the University of Pretoria. He lives in New York City, where he is h(o)us(e)band to Christine, and 6PM Music Director at the Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal).

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