Notes From The South | Legacies

Editor – Those faces, sometimes shaded, ever young. Citizenship used to be a matter of personal principle to many. A standard of dedication that seems to be lost among us today, an allegiance to society rather than state. Professor Merval Jurema was one of a generation that knew the distinction. Bernardo Jurema, his grandson, a regular writer for these pages heard the news of his passing yesterday morning. Today he re-posts his thoughts on his grandparents legacy, written on their 60th anniversary.

Sometimes the themes of politics & society deserve lower case, a subtler nuance and a human face.

Grandpa Merval & Grandma Maidy

Bernardo Jurema

Grandpa Merval at the head of the table in the tiny apartment, made even smaller by the number of people packed for the Sunday family lunch, holding potently the 1-liter bottle of Coke. Back then, in the 1980s, the 1L bottle was made of glass, iconic curves and we only drank Coke on weekends, if that. Also, at that time we were, his grandchildren, children in the process of learning how to become people and that image of us at Granpa’s table would become emblematic of the concept of authority and justice that we would construct as we became adults: Coca-cola, just one glass, so that everyone had some, and only for those who ate everything!

We would grow up, Coca-Cola would become more ordinary, and the concepts of authority and justice, a little more complex. But Grandpa’s sense of justice and honesty would remain, and would become a parameter. As we grew older, we learned that Grandpa Merval is also Professor Merval, with a life-long and selfless dedication to Brazilian society, especially public education in our home state of Pernambuco.

We would realize then that those values of honesty and justice extended to his public life. He holds a Law degree; he devoted himself to education, teaching for over thirty years in several of Recife’s universities and colleges; he has held technical and administrative functions in the state government of Pernambuco; at the federal level, he served as deputy-Minister of Interior and Justice; and he had integrated the Board of Joaquim Nabuco Foundation. What stood out then, and still holds true today is that the same principles that governed his private life were the ones that drove his public life.

It is this legacy of integrity, justice and honesty that Grandpa has left us, the most valuable legacy that exists: an honorable name.

Grandpa’s stiffness was contrasted with Grandma Maidy’s malleability. Nothing draws a more blatant distinction with the Coca-Cola at the head of the table than Grandma, after lunch, while Grandpa retreats to his classic afternoon hammock nap, taking us to the kitchen so that we could eat – supreme pleasure – chocolate with condensed milk. Nothing could be more complementary in terms of her own values!

While with Grandpa we learned the importance of respect for authority and justice, from Grandma we learned that we must combine that with a certain amount of flexibility and solidarity towards the other.

The volunteer work in poor communities surrounding the Madalena neighborhood, when volunteering was not fashionable or required by “headhunters” for multinationals, and which Grandma tirelessly continues to perform to this day, would be the public extension of that private behaviour of the condensed milk.

It is within the family that we learn social norms and morals that will guide us for the rest of our lives, whether in our personal lives when we form our own families, or as citizens aware of our rights and duties towards society.

What a privilege then we have had, all of us children, grandchildren, friends and relatives, to have two of the best citizens, Christians, human beings, upon whom to mirror and be inspired by!

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