When Wisdom Dies

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I am the last woman survivor from my nuclear family. Sometimes I feel inadequate with the expectation of the holder of knowledge and wisdom passed down through the generations. I am the Auntie and the mom and grandmother. Perhaps wisdom is actually simply the ability to listen without judgement and sharing of ideas.

When I think back on the older generations in my family, I try to remember our conversations and their counsel. I always felt they were wise and held all the answers in the universe, but thinking back now, I can challenge that thought. I can only remember a few instances of solid advice to serve as a solution to my problem of the moment.

Instead, I think they were powerful sounding boards for my own chaotic thoughts. I remember one conversation with my mother when she calmly said to me, “I think you know the answer.” She was right. And I think about how many times in the years that followed that I have offered the same observation to others.

When I have given advice constructed as what someone should or should not do, it lies like a bitter pill. Maybe that bitterness is the acknowledgement that no one can know the right answers for another.

I still do not know if we are all born with an innate sense of what is right and what is wrong. If we are, then our environment must  impact that sense beyond the mind’s ability to retain it.

My paternal grandmother died before my mother, but my maternal grandmother outlived my mother, her daughter. I wonder if they struggled with some of the same questions I have. I wonder if they felt ill-equipped for the role as I sometimes do.

Maybe Jimi Hendrix said it best:

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens”


16 thoughts on “When Wisdom Dies”

  1. I am now the oldest surviving male member of my extended family. Nobody looks to me for wisdom and advice, but they do respect my long career in the emergency services, and the fact that I have always tried to keep in touch with every one of them.
    My mum was the glue that held us all together. When she died 10 years ago, we lost her role of the ‘central pivot’ that we all revolved around.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. My maternal grandmother wrote letters to everyone in her family. She was how we always knew what was happening in the family. It sounds like you are the contact point for your family, too. We are all now scattered like the wind.

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  2. I hear you. From my perspective, I’m the only one left from my side because my parents fell out of touch with their extended families and I don’t know any of them. But my daughters probably have a different view, as they still have some of their father’s peeps as well as the nice families they married into…

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    1. I am so glad your children married into nice families. Not having extended families can be difficult, although in some cases perhaps a hidden blessing. It does seem like we are sort of standing alone, though, doesn’t it?

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  3. I have a small family – a dad and a sister – plus my hubbie’s brother, wife and children. So, fortunately, I suppose, there are no family members relying on me for wisdom. But I am conscious of being an elder voice, as part of a community of women who choose to be present in the world. Listening is always best, I think, and honoring the difficulties of others with presence.

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    1. Our relationships with other women are so enriching at this stage of life. I love the idea of honoring someone with presence. Thank you, Lisa


  4. I enjoy remembering conversations with my elders. Sounding board is a good term. I miss them terribly and wish I had recordings of our conversations. I’m not sure that I am much more than a sounding board these days. It’s a difficult role at times.

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    1. It can be difficult, Lauren, especially when the problems are true life challenges. Sometimes listening is all that is within our power to offer.

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