What’s Needful is Lawful

I miss my grandmother so much. I told her so on the phone yesterday. She told me that she misses me too, but she also said “What’s needful is lawful.” I asked her what she was getting at with that maxim, and she said that in the pursuit of better things in life, we have to make sacrifices that take us out of our comfort zone; difficult things we might not want to do become absolutely necessary. Or they should anyway, because otherwise we’ll never know what might have been.

I keep (foolishly) thinking that I’ve heard all of my grandmother’s sayings, only to learn otherwise. She slipped this one into our conversation so inconspicuously; it was an aside. “I miss you too,” then softer “but what’s needful is lawful.” I almost missed it, and in fact it took a minute to register. When I had us double back over the comment, she brought up her own Grandma Clara, who she learned the saying from. She painted a picture for me of Grandma Clara sitting in her rocking chair, swaying back and forth as she shirked her chores in favour of reading. “When she found out the day had gone, and she hadn’t finished cooking, she had to rush and get up and cook so when her husband come out the field, hungry and rearing, she’d have somethin’ for him to eat. She was one of the best women the Lord has ever made. Grandma Clara we used to call her.”

The most I’d ever heard about my great great grandmother Clara before this was how she took in my great grandmother to raise as her own daughter, away from the mean and wicked clutches of her stepmother. Sounds like Cinderella I know but it’s true! Grammy has told me the story countless times over my lifetime – she repeated it again yesterday – and it always goes the same way. I was glad this time to learn more about the fairy mother Clara. She sounds like a sweet, smart woman, and one after my own heart. Reading all day in her rocking chair? Haha! I would have loved to meet her. I’m going to ask Grammy to tell me more about her too.

I’d never considered my grandmother as a little girl, with a grandmother of her own to learn from and be loved by. I never even thought of Grandma Clara as my own relative, really, or how intimately we are connected through her role in my grandmother’s life. It was fun to think about yesterday, and to wonder how much their relationship resembled the one that Grammy and I have. Our conversation made me recognise too the chain of wisdom passed from one grandmother to the next. Will I have a granddaughter to talk to about my own grandmother? The way you always hear her humming before you see her, and her famously generous spirit? Perhaps, but whether or not that happens I am endlessly thankful for my Grammy, and now for Grandma Clara too, who taught her, gave her wisdom and loved her in preparation (among other things) for her to do the same for me. Grandma Clara loved me even without knowing it.

2 thoughts on “What’s Needful is Lawful”

  1. If you don’t have a granddaughter of your own, be sure to pour out your wisdom and love on my children and their children! It takes a village to raise a child, and you are definitely part of my village 🙂


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