For our last meeting, the Cincinnati Writers topic was “What I’m Leaving Behind.” As one of my dearest friends, I know of many attributes that make Diana extraordinary. But after she read her writing to our group, I knew I wanted to include her in my blog as a Dazzling Dayton Dame … Dame being a woman of refinement.
When I told her that I had never met another grandparent who had done what she and her husband did, she said, “I thought it was my job.” She gave me permission to share some of what she wrote here:
“Over a quarter of a century ago nothing could be more important in my life than my children and then my first grandson was born. A couple years after that a beautiful granddaughter entered the world followed by two more grandsons. Now they range from 25-18 years old. They stole my heart and I felt grateful that we all lived only a mile from each other. When I hear the sound ‘Grandma’ vibrate through the airwaves, my heart soars today as much as it did twenty-five years ago.
Early on I knew in order to care for and preserve this planet, my grandchildren would need to love it. As crickets sang at night, I held them in my arms and danced to cricket rhythms. I told them they were made out of the stardust that dotted the night sky.
As each grandchild turned five, a rite of passage awaited them. My husband, Jim, and I took them overnight backpacking in the Smoky Mountains, one the most beautiful spots on the face of this earth. We saw bears and poison ivy, rattlesnakes and wild flowers, waterfalls and giant trees. We exposed them to great natural beauty and the fun of spending time enjoying it. They loved it and still do.
They love each other and now dream of the time when they will all share ownership of ‘a house in the Smoky’s’ where they can meet and bring their children. They deeply care about the future of this planet, its natural habitats, and the beings living in them.
As they grew, Jim and I also wanted their foundational perspective to be world centric and not just nation centric. When they turned thirteen, we took each of them to an undeveloped country so they could see that not everyone on this planet lived as they did. Images were planted in their minds before their teen years planted fixed ideas difficult to change. They were gifted and we told them because of that they had a greater responsibility to care for those who weren’t.
Cameron, the first, picked Ecuador and we hiked the high Andes to secluded villages, took a long boat to a remote rainforest village on a tributary of the Amazon, and saw the Galapagos.
Breanna wrote a report on Ethiopia for school and off we went seeing some of the worst poverty and greatest beauty on this planet. Monoliths built over a thousand years ago were hard to conceive of even as we walked through them. Stalks of corn, standing dry and barren, dotted a landscape suffering drought as small children walked the sheep and goats to find food for them.
Jarrod chose to not just tour but to leave something behind. We took off for Kenya and the Serengeti to help Me to We, an organization where children help children in need. He mixed sand and cement and lifted bricks with Kenyan young men for the walls of a refrigerated room to store medicines in the clinic. He played soccer with young children whose balls were rags tied together. They loved him. We went on a safari seeing a lion, lioness, and cubs feast on a wildebeest.
Eliot chose to follow his brother with Me to We to build a classroom in India. In New Delhi and at the Taj Mahal, he saw incredible luxury. In Rajasthan, he saw incredible poverty. Children’s classrooms were just a spot under a large tree. Women walked miles every day to get jugs of water.”
Diana has little faith in her generation to recognize, understand, and address the huge complex problems they are leaving behind. She believes her generation often hampers solutions. Because of her experience with her grandchildren and their friends, she does, however, have faith in them.
I believe this new generation is the wisest and smartest evolution has created. I believe enough in them are awake and grown up enough to take on the challenges they face. I am so very sorry and sad that they have to do that. ~Diana Spiegel
And so, in addition to the “mess,” Diana is leaving behind four of the most incredible young people you could ever meet. They love nature. They care deeply about wealth inequalities, not only in the US but globally. Race and color are not prerequisites in who they choose as friends.
Cameron and Breanna have graduated college, Jarrod is a junior, and Eliot a freshman. For them, education is not only to be successful. Wealth is not only to buy things. A college education is for what they can do with it to contribute.
Her grandchildren understand that there is something at work here bigger than they can imagine.