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My great-grandmother lived a difficult life. She grew up during the Great Depression and its harsh aftereffects. Once married, her husband became a cruel and irresponsible alcoholic who ended up leaving her to raise their children alone. She worked long hours and lived frugally her entire life. But she took care of her children, never shirking her great responsibility to care for them. She took them to church every Sunday and raised them to be productive, hard-working people who loved God and had a strong faith.

One of those children was my grandpa. He carried the lessons he had learned from his less than ideal childhood into the rest of his life—always caring for others, working responsibly, taking care of his own family later, and serving God faithfully as a pastor and missionary.  

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My mom, his daughter, witnessed how his upbringing affected his life. She grew up visiting her grandma and seeing her work ethic and commitment to her family and her God firsthand. And my mom never forgot it. She continued making time to visit with Granny as an adult, bringing us kids with her. We loved sorting through Granny’s enormous seashell collection and running around the yard while she and Mom sat on the front porch swing and talked.

Today, my great-grandmother’s memory has slipped to the point where she doesn’t always recognize her family members who come to visit. 

But my mom still visits anyway.

She goes regularly to sit by her bed, talk to her, and give her manicures, trimming down her nails so she won’t accidentally scratch herself and then painting them a pretty color. It seems like a small detail compared to all of Granny’s larger needs, but it’s important because those details matter to Granny. She wouldn’t like to be seen without being dressed and groomed to her satisfaction. 

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One time, when Mom was headed over to visit, my young teen brother asked in the typically straightforward teen boy manner, “Why do you go over there so much? She doesn’t even remember who you are.”

“That’s true,” Mom replied. “She doesn’t remember who I am, but I remember who she is. That’s why I go.” 

My mom makes time to visit and love on Granny because she remembers all that Granny sacrificed to raise my mom’s father. She remembers her Granny’s strength and hard work and character. She remembers visits to her house when she was little and conversations with her as she grew up. She remembers all the weddings and family reunions and Christmas gatherings they shared throughout their lives together.

It doesn’t matter that Granny doesn’t know who she is. My mom knows who Granny is and knows the important role she played in both her and her father’s life. For her, it’s more than just a manicureit’s an act of remembrance. Of gratitude. Of love. 

Because even more meaningful than a beautiful memorial is how you live in memory of someone, not just when they’ve passed, but while they’re still alive.

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So let’s not forget those who might be easy to forget at times—the shut-ins who aren’t at church or family events anymore, the elderly who live in nursing homes or assisted living communities, the friends who are away serving overseas, the emergency personnel who are always there when we need them, the people who may have played a big role in past seasons of our lives, the friends or family members who may live far away from us now, or even the ones who have gone on to Heaven before us. 

Let’s not remember them just in word or thought, but let’s remember them in our actions too.

We can include them in our prayers, take time to visit them, send them a letter or meal or care package, return past acts of kindness, call them to catch up and hear how they’re doing, and live in light of what they’ve taught us in the time we’ve known them. 

The legacies of those closest to us will only live on if we intentionally remember those people, what they meant to us, and what they taught us. They may not always remember us, but we can remember them. And that should change how we live our lives.

Jessica Swanda

Jessica Swanda is a freelance writer who travels the USA full time with her husband. She’s always up for a good book, board game, or a vanilla chai latte. She writes about everything from travel and faith to business and marketing at her site proofisinthewriting.com.

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