This morning, we got the news that Maribelle, Chris’s (adoptive) Grandma, passed away at the age of 92. This was anticipated news, but still sad, because a truly beautiful soul has left this life.
In 1976, when she was 61, her church sponsored some Vietnamese refugees who’d evacuated during the fall of Saigon, with the last American troops to pull out. She was a retired schoolteacher at the time, with two grown sons, living in a Texan border town. She jumped at the chance to help out. She secretly wanted a family, but instead, four young men came over. If she was disappointed, she didn’t show it — she welcomed them into her home to get their bearings before starting their lives in the U.S.
One of those men is Chris’s dad, and as luck (or desire) would have it, she did get to meet the family she’d hoped — Chris’s dad met and married his mom, and brought young Chris into Maribelle’s world.
Her generosity — given freely to strangers from across the world — made it possible for Chris’s extended family to emigrate to the U.S. While many Americans were debating, protesting, and philosophizing about the Vietnam War, she was taking concrete, personal action to alleviate the human suffering caused by war.
And she felt deeply rewarded by her choice. In addition to watching her own two sons grow up, she got to watch Chris and his brother grow up into amazing young men. She opened her home and her heart to a new family, giving them a well-supported start in a new country, which gave her an unexpected third chapter to her already rich life.
One of the final blessings that she gave Chris and his family was her deep faith in the afterlife. She believed so strongly in Heaven that she was able to encourage Chris and everyone who loved her to celebrate her life. And she wanted everyone to eat jelly beans at her memorial service.
So we’re on our way out the door to buy a big jug of jelly beans, to honor the memory of a woman who spent her life learning and loving, with an open mind and open heart. Rest well.
Beauty in a Wicked World is a weekly column by Jennifer Gandin Le. It appears on Wednesdays.