I Hear the Voice of My Great Granddaughter


kathleen bertrand -i hear the voice of my great granddaughter-3

I stood at the protest, holding hands with my mother and daughter, as we sang,

“I hear the voice of my great granddaughter
Saying stop this pipeline stop
The people are going to rise like the water
Gonna calm this crisis down.”

I hear the voices of my great granddaughters. Calling me to stand up on this ground I call home. Calling me to protect her heritage. She asks me to listen to the people who have always been here, who know this land in their very bones and to follow them. She asks to me to sit with the pain we have caused by being here. She calls me to give her a different world.

My daughters, I hear you.

I call back, urging her to live in this big beautiful world with her arms wide open. I call her to err on the side of love. To dig in her heels and stand strong against whatever injustice stirs her heart toward anger.

I call her to quiet acts of communion with the Holy, to mediation, to solo hiking in the woods. To find small, daily ways to take care of creation.

I call her to follow her hands. To create beauty. To nurture love. To bake or sew or build or paint or write or grow things. I call her to listen to and trust her body. I call her to a life of passports, new languages and the wobbly feeling of jetlag. To tables overflowing with wine, baguettes, freshly picked flowers and real conversations. I call her to open homes with cozy blankets where she and her kindred spirits make plans to change their world.

I call her to carry on the work given to her by our family, of making this world just a wee bit better having seen the likes of us.

I also hear the voices of my great grandmothers.

I hear her words coming to me across newspaper clippings, hidden behind the details of faded photographs and in between census records. She tells me a story of love. Of heartbreak. Of family. Of moving across oceans to create new families in new lands. Of struggling to fit it. Of deep joy. Of finding her voice.

Grandmothers, I hear you.

I ask her how she did not lose herself in a family who didn’t want her, alone in a new country with a new baby. I ask her how she found the courage to look for joy again after losing a husband so young. I ask her how she managed to get out of bed day after day after losing so many children in those few short years. What was it like to stay home while her husband went to Australia? To France? To South Africa? I ask her what she felt as she stood on that ship and saw her new country for the first time.

I ask her if she knew she was pushing people off their land. Did she see their pain? Did she understand what she was doing?

And trembling I ask, Am I making any of the same mistakes she did?

I thank her for showing up day after day for her family. For staying. For creating a life here for herself, for me, for my children. I thank her for passing on a love of adventure and of reading and of making things with my hands. I thank her for her recipes. I thank her for the hours spent cooking, cleaning, planting, making. I thank her for her dreams for her own life. For giving our family the best of who she was. I thank her for keeping and finding and collecting the stories. I thank her for passing them to me to give to my children.

Standing here today, as my voice joins with my mother’s and my daughter’s, I am stretched between time. And if I reach out a just wee bit further, I am certain I can grasp the hands of my ancestors and descendants as we all sing together.