In this world of athletes and actors who are revered as heroes, there stands apart one unsung hero who, with her quiet strength, wisdom, and courage, has done more to shape my life than any other. She has encouraged every endeavor I have attempted, from comic strip art to journalism to performance music (where I have found my home), all while standing behind me and applauding my efforts. Her support has meant the world to me because so many have encouraged me to turn toward "sensible" careers, not toward the stirrings of my heart.
Her love of music inspired me at an early age, and it was not unusual to wake to the sounds of an aria or Broadway tune. She was very much her own person as a young woman, marching to no drummer but her own. Her sense of style, morality, and herself were unique then, as they are now. Her beauty lies in her heart, a heart so big, a heart so full of love that she would be planning a baby shower for an unwed mother at the same time as putting stamps on donations to an Native American reservation. Her heart never was so full as not to allow for one more.
Her parents were stage performers, so her heart was stirred by the same things as me: the beautiful words of a poet, the strains of a violin crying, a woman pouring out her soul in song. I hope that I have inherited her spirit and her inner beauty and will pass these things on to my own children. Her influence has spread far and wide, and the legacy she will leave is proof of the many lives she has touched.
Her bravery and courage come from a hard life where nothing was easily attained, or underestimated. I think her strength is derived from this, and it has indelibly shaped her.
From a poem written by my mother to her: "She is as soft as a summer breeze and gentle as a baby's caress, yet also as fragile as glass ... God gave her ears that listen, eyes that see through deceit and cruelty, and hands that comfort you and soothe your fears." My grandmother, as you see, shaped my mother's life as well as mine.
I believe I have inherited from her a certain softness and awareness of the human condition. I, too, have those "ears that listen ... and hands that comfort," and I hope her influence lives on in me and inspires others to live their dream as well.
"The true saint lives in the midst of other people. He rises in the morning; he eats and sleeps when needed. He buys and sells in the marketplace just like everyone else. He marries, has children, and meets with his friends. Yet never for an instant does he forget God." Evidently Abu Sa'id met my grandmother. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.