Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Several weeks ago now, my Grandma passed away. My Dad's Mother was 86 and died in her sleep. I am thankful that she was able to go peacefully. She had prayed her last breath might be taken that way. I believe that was because she had lived with an independent spirit for so long and didn’t want anyone else to have to worry about taking care of her through the last stages of life.

My Grandma, Wilma Hoffman, was born, raised, and planted in New Jersey/New York area. She was quite a woman with quite a story. Wilma could be described as a tough cookie with a good heart. Looking back on her life history, it is no wonder she learned how to be a strong and independent. She transformed from girl into woman rather quickly- living through orphanage life as a child, raising her younger brother, holding her own in a calloused neighborhood, becoming a "Rosie the Riveter" during the war, being a single mom for two kids, and taking in countless numbers of other children when the going got too rough in their own families. This last account was the most touching part of her funeral. To hear grown adults speak about how Wilma had literally taken them in off the streets or from broken homes and taught them how to be kind and responsible. One of them stated, “Before I knew Wilma, I knew how to do two things- fight and run. She taught me how to be a kind and responsible young man.” I never knew my father shared his childhood with so many brothers and sisters in this way. One of the most amazing things about the death of a family member is the way God seems to give you a glimpse of all that has been, and all that will be, according to his seamless plan.

This side of my family history allowed me to get to know an area of the country I would otherwise likely remain clueless. My Dad was born and raised in New Jersey, and actually he and my Mom spent their first two years of marriage there. They ended up deciding Jersey wasn’t quite their style, and moved to Chicago thinking they were more of the "Midwest" mentality. But when it comes down to it- there is so much about my Dad that still screams Jersey Boy! This may slip out in talk of the Shore house, Frankie Valley, or just a simply stated “Don’t worry bout it”.

Our family took summer vacations to Jersey frequently during my childhood. We would often spend time at the Jersey Shore. I absolutely adored going to the boardwalk and indulging in cheesy arcade games and rides. I also adored getting to know my Dad's gang of lifelong friends. Every time we came into town it was an excuse to throw a party so they could all reminisce about the good old days. I recall the sounds of the Doobie Brothers, Four Seasons, and Sinatra spinning through the air in the midst of Cigar smoking and deep hearty laughter. They are quite a pack and still remain extremely loyal to one another these days.

Reflecting on this as an adult, I can recognize how special and rare that is. I see this rubbed of on me without conscious awareness when I was younger- I took in my Dad's value for friendship that crosses miles, social status, and life choices.

In fact, I find I am gaining more and more respect and love for my Dad the more I learn about my family background. I was deeply inspired by the example of faith he portrayed this past trip, and it was evident that God's love was working through him to touch others.

It is with great sadness that the New Jersey chapter in my life seems closed. Although I know, all things considered, it is not. The memories will live on and I have been blessed to have the chance to get to know my Grandma. I will always remember and greatly appreciate her life perspective.


melissa said...

peace to your grandmother's memory - and peace to you, and love, from spain.

Ali James said...

Thats beautiful thanks for sharing! I miss you and your family so much!