By Madeleine L’Engle
First Published in 1974
“Tell me a story when you were a little girl.”
In The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, L’Engle shares her stories (both blissful and painful) and reflections during the last summer of her mother. Her mother is 90 years old, sliding into senility but gives no signs of quitting this world. L’Engle is torn between her love for her mother and her wishing her (mother) to die as she does not want her mother to be placed in a nursing home when no one in the family would be able to take care of her. As she tries to recall the mother she knew (and never knew), L’Engle also traces back to her roots from the stories told by her mother and grandmother. L’Engle also wonders if her granddaughters and the sons and daughters to follow will still remember and keep alive the story of their family just as she remembers her ancestors’. This reminded me of a topic discussed in a Philosophy course I sat when I was in college. “Death, The Final Test of Immortality” was written on a printed handout. It said that when a person dies our fidelity is what makes the person immortal. By remembering those who have gone before us, we keep him/her alive in our memories and in our hearts.
This is a story about living rather than dying. Anybody who has experience the decline and eventually the loss of a loved one can attest that the pain one felt is overpowered by much love and at the end what remains are the beautiful memories and peace in one’s heart.
The Summer of the Great-Grandmother is Book 2 of the Crosswicks Chronicles. Crosswicks is the name of the farm owned by Madeleine L’Engle and her family. I’ve been a L’Engle fan since A Wrinkle In Time (which I did not care to read when a friend was raving about it and regretted 2 years after but that’s another story) and it is my fervent wish to read all her books.