Choose life

Family Ties

October 17, 2018 | Viewpoints | Volume 22 Issue 20
Melissa Miller |
Melissa Miller

“Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” These Old Testament words resonated with me this past summer as part of my extended family gathered at our church camp. We did the typical things like catching up on each other’s lives, playing games and debating if the mountain spring-fed lake was warm enough for swimming. Unique this summer was a passing of the torch as my mother released old roles and others stepped in to pick them up.

In this case, the focus was on blankets. In her day, my mother was a prodigious seamstress. Countless projects flew from her skilled hands and Necchi sewing machine. Now with her limited vision, such creations are not possible. Yet her beloved family continues to grow and reach milestones, like high school graduation. And my mother’s urge to love and to give is as strong as ever.

My sister Beckie stepped in to bridge the past and the future. Knowing my mother could not make blankets for the new grads, as she had done in the past, Beckie arranged to go to the fabric store with our mother on two occasions, with the grandson and granddaughter. The young people selected the fabrics and Grandma paid the bill. Beckie then carried the materials home and, with the help of others, cut patches and sewed comforter tops.

When the family gathered at the camp, Beckie brought the patch tops, the batting, backing and thread. Most people took a turn at helping, knotting together the layers or stitching the hem of the backing. Most heart-warming was the presence of our mother, sitting with the others at the table, tying knots on the blankets, happy as could be, relishing one more chance to contribute with her hands. It’s hard to imagine blankets that could be sewn with more love or more intergenerational heart.

I am writing this on Thanksgiving weekend. The food we prepare reminds me of generations past and the life they chose and passed on. When I purchase a locally grown turkey, I recall my grandparents, who supplemented their income by raising and dressing turkeys for others’ holiday dinners. Earlier today, my husband and son made fresh cranberry sauce by grinding together the berries with apples and oranges, a longstanding tradition of my in-laws.

They also made my mother-in-law’s melt-in-your-mouth dinner rolls. Daniel, our son, had asked this year to be included because he wanted to learn the craft. As father and son worked together, I remembered a two-year-old Daniel helping his grandmother knead the dough. Later, he affectionately hugged Grandma, burying his face in her ample bosom. “Grandma,” he exclaimed, “You feel just like bread dough!”

We will carry these foods to our friends’ house for a shared feast. Three family units will gather around the table, unrelated by blood but linked by warm friendship, delicious food and gratitude. Each one has a part to play in choosing life, and their own line of ancestors who have done so before them.

The passage cited at the beginning urges people to choose life on behalf of themselves and their descendants. Moses spoke these words to the Israelites shortly before the end of his life. He described choosing life as “loving God, obeying and holding fast to God” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). This is the life my ancestors chose and the one I inherited. This is the life I hope and pray those who follow after me will embrace with unwavering commitment. We may see threads of it in blankets, taste it in favourite foods or glimpse it when we take stock of the Creator’s providence in generations past. May we choose life.

Melissa Miller ( has a passion for helping people develop healthy, vibrant relationships with God, self and others.

Melissa Miller

Share this page:

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.