The Legacy of A Truly Excellent Woman

posted in: Notes | 32

Today I am sharing a poem in memory of a truly excellent woman, my grandmother – Fayola Ash. I wrote this in memory of her passing, which was almost three years ago — on my son’s due date (3/15/2011). He arrived about two weeks later, in good health — and he was known by name to my grandmother before she died. If you want to read the backstory behind the poem, consider some thoughts on creating a photographic legacy, and view more candid photographs, make sure to read to the end.

Betsy and her Grandmother, Fayola, in Pozzouli, Italy
Betsy and her Grandmother, Fayola, in Pozzouli, Italy (2010)

A Truly Excellent Woman

My grandmother was always certain,
calm, assured.
She had a firm foundation.
Her faith was strong,
her compassion knew no bounds.
She knew what she believed, and did accordingly.
Her whole life was a testament to her Creator.
She recovered from polio,
she raised four children (including twins),
she managed her household.
She loved and respected her husband,
deferring to him in public;
but if you knew them, you would know
he let her have the final say.
She was wise and thoughtful,
kind and loving,
opinionated but usually justified.
Her life was spent inspiring others,
through the works of her hands,
the music she created
as her fingers danced across the keys.
Age slowed them down, but didn’t stop her.
She loved music, and kept her dearest hymns
on her lips, even as death approached.
She lived a life worth living.
But in the end, cancer struck.
A vicious, quick attack,
leaving only weeks to come to terms with
the finality of the battle.
In her dying hours, she was selfess.
Caring more about the impending celebration of life,
that my son’s birth would not be
overshadowed by her death.
She always wanted the best for others.
Even at the sacrifice of herself.
Small in stature, she left big shoes to fill.
I hope my legacy will be worthy,
that one day I will fill my grandmother’s shoes.
She was a truly excellent woman.


Backstory of “A Truly Excellent Woman”

This section does talk about my faith and beliefs. If that might offend you, feel free to skip to the next section. It’s just an integral part of who my grandmother was, so I can’t overlook it.

The Voice Bible translation describes the Proverbs 31 woman as “a truly excellent woman” (Pr 31:10). This is where I began when writing this poem, as my grandmother was an inspiration to all who knew her. She was everything one would aspire to be as a woman of God. While we never get over the loss of a loved one, it has taken me several years to realize the impact her life has had on me, and how I want to live my life as a wife, mother, and person. I hope that I will one day be able to look back on my life and know that I too, with God’s grace, was able to be a truly excellent woman in all my words and deeds.

A Shared Journey to Italy + Israel

In 2010, I accompanied my grandmother on a trip to Israel and Italy (she did not want to go alone). At 86, she was not the youngest on the tour, but she was a trooper. She conquered all the stairs at Tel Megiddo, she walked the Via Dolorosa, and climbed aboard a camel. Why the camel ride? She’s always wanted to ride a camel since seeing them on her travels to Egypt with my grandfather (my photographic inspiration). On this trip, she carried his camera with her (yes, I helped her use it from time to time). It was an honor to have taken that trip with her, and I have memories I will always cherish. She was a world traveler, and I got to share in her last big trip abroad.

The images below feature candid photographs of my grandmother (and some with me as well) during our travels to Israel and Italy. I’ve plenty of fine art photographs from my travels to show you, but that’s for another day. Today it’s about my grandmother’s legacy. [click on any image to view in gallery mode]

Candid Photographs of Our Journey

What About Your Legacy?

What kind of legacy will you leave? What do you hope to accomplish in your life? What will the photographs say about you to future generations?

I know I tend to ask a lot of open-ended questions, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers either. I know what matters to me… yet I make new discoveries on that front every day. I hope you too will be inspired to take an active role in crafting your legacy.

The decisions we make today, the actions we take now, all affect the person we will be remembered as by future generations.

And if you haven’t checked it out already, make sure to read my post, Life is Too Short, which I wrote earlier this month as I grieved with my friend for their loss of a family member. Pregnancy does things to ramp up emotions, so maybe that’s part of the reason for these sentimental posts. But truthfully, sentimental is part of what I do for a living. I make memories for my clients, I create portraits that capture personalities, I help document family legacies. I love doing multi-generational portraits because, for me, family is really what it’s all about.

So, back to my question: what about your legacy? Do you have someone similar to my grandmother, a truly excellent woman, in your life? Will you be an inspiration to others, as my grandfather inspired me to become a photographer? Will you be known as a someone whose shoes others can only hope to fill?

32 Responses

  1. Tabatha

    There’s a lot of love in that poem! We never do stop missing our truly excellent grandmothers, do we? Your Fayola had a joyful smile.

  2. Sarah

    My mother passed away on Thanksgiving morning. She lived a long, full life filled with wonderful friendships and a loving family. Your poem about your grandmother is obviously written with much love, respect, and joy for a “truly excellent woman.” Thank you for sharing this touching tribute.

  3. Betsy Finn

    That she did, Tabatha. I think she lit up a room when she entered it. Thanks for your kind words. Here’s to truly excellent grandmothers everywhere!

  4. Betsy Finn

    Sarah, I’m sorry for your loss. Mothers and grandmothers really have a profound impact in our lives… perhaps the most important women of influence over the span of a lifetime. Thank you for visiting, and sharing your story.

  5. joyacey

    What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother. I liked learning the back story. The photographs are wonderful. How rich the legacy. Thank you.

  6. Lajsas Fotografi

    Really good pictures and a nice poem! =)

    Thanks a lot for your comment at my website! =)

  7. Betsy Finn

    Thank you, Joy. I’m glad others have found it meaningful too. My litmus test for a “good” poem is whether I tear up when writing. This one passed that test, for sure.

  8. Betsy Finn

    Thank you Elisabeth! I likewise enjoyed perusing your site, love the waterdrop macro image :).

  9. Tammy @ creativekkids

    What a touching tribute about your grandma. We are who we are many times because of the great people who have gone before us and impacted our lives.

  10. Betsy Finn

    Tammy, that is so true. Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

  11. Laura

    Lovely tribute to your grandmother. The pictures are wonderful and much hold such great memories for you.

  12. Betsy Finn

    Thanks for your kind words, Laura. These pictures (and others from my trip with my grandmother) will always be special to me. I have a couple on “permanent display” in our home because it’s important to surround yourself with memories like this!

  13. Gwen

    What a lovely post. I am sorry for your loss of a wonderful grandmother – but what a fine example to have known.

  14. Betsy Finn

    Thank you, Gwen.

  15. Karan Mccaughey

    Your story touched my heart, I am a grandmother to 8, and I hope when my life is over, they will remember me with love, as you loved your grandmother. It’s funny, I just wrote a blog about taking 2 of our granddaughters on a cruise….I hope to make wonderful memories.

  16. Carlie

    I have a grandma like that too. Women of legend, astoundingly impressive and kind hearted to the core. You inspire me. I think I’ll try write about my grandma next month for Poetry Friday, before I am writing a memorial.

  17. Betsy Finn

    Karen, thanks for sharing. I’m sure they will grow up to have as memories of you that are just as fond as I have of my grandmother. As an aside, trips with grandparents always are good for memory-making!

  18. Farah

    I feel the same about legacy. I’m always worried that I will not leave behind a legacy that is good enough for my sons!!

  19. Betsy Finn

    That sounds like a great idea, Carlie! I’d love to read your poem if you can remember to link back or something when it’s posted.

  20. Betsy Finn

    I know what you mean, Farah. As I consider how to best mother my son (soon to be two) — I too focus a lot on living up to expectations, following through, and doing what I say I am going to do. I read somewhere that most of a child’s lifelong character is developed and instilled in them by the age of five. I bet your sons will one day look back and be proud to have you as a parent (if they aren’t already now 😉 ).

  21. Tamar

    I haven’t been to Israel since 2003, been way to long!

  22. Betsy Finn

    I know the feeling, Tamar. There are some places you just are dying to go back to as soon as you leave.

  23. Nancy @ A Rural Journal

    Wow == what an inspiring lady. I didn’t really know either of my grandmothers. Something I missed. Lovely post.

  24. Sally

    Hello Betsy,

    Thanks for sharing these beautiful memories of your special grandmother. You have her smile.

    Have a Happy Blue Monday!

  25. Kim Cunningham

    This is lovely! My husband and I often talk about the importance of leaving a legacy. A good one, because we all know that haunting legacies can be left behind, too.

  26. Betsy Finn

    Thanks Nancy. I am sorry you didn’t get to really know yours (I am so grateful to have known mine).

    But I do know that the legacy lives on through the stories we tell our children. I have fond memories of several relatives I never had the privilege of knowing because their legacy is carried on in the stories and family “sayings.”

  27. Betsy Finn

    Thank you Sally, that means a lot. (Happy Blue Monday to you too!)

  28. Betsy Finn

    Ah yes, Kim. That is so true — there are good …AND “bad” legacies. We all want to be remembered for the good that we did, the positive influence of our lives on others… but sometimes (sadly) people are remembered for the less savory actions.

    (I’m bringing to mind Nicholas Cage in National Treasure talking about Samuel L. Mudd …and how his whole legacy is wrapped up in the idiom “his name is mud.” Our actions, even a single action, can totally define our legacy.

  29. Rachel

    Thanks for sharing this inspiring post on the #smallvictoriessunday linky. Your grandmother’s faith and perservance is an amazing testimony to others. It reminds me of my Grandma. I was just thinking about her today and how I need to visit her.

  30. Betsy Finn

    Thanks, Rachel. I love how our elders can be an inspiration to us — whether through stories of their legacy, or through direct interaction with them 🙂

  31. Nicole C

    What a beautiful way to remember your grandmother. Thank you so much for sharing and for stopping by the Growing in Grace Link-Up!

  32. Betsy Finn

    Thanks Nicole. I enjoyed the link up 🙂