We buried my Grandmother this last Monday. I spent quite a bit of time with her in the last few years, and in doing so, I got to know an incredible person. Let me tell you about her.
She was born in 1916 in rural East Texas. Her father was a sharecropper and she grew up when horsepower was still from horses. She grew into a tall, strong, tom-boyish girl. She married my Grandfather and bore him eight children, first three boys and then five girls. The marriage was not a good one. He was often gone and liked to hunt and fish more than he liked to work. So, she quite often faced the trials of raising eight kids by herself. I was surprised to hear the pain that still lingered in her voice when she talked of having to send her kids to school with cardboard in the soles of their shoes to patch the holes. When the boys were in their early teens, she decided she was tired of carrying water 50 yards to the house and directed the boys in digging a new well closer to the house. She sat her youngest child in an improvised crib in the yard while she helped them.
I dimly remember her teaching my Sunday school class when I was about 4-5. I thought I had it made because my Grandma was the teacher. Boy, was I wrong. That attitude earned me a quick swat that hurt my pride and put me in my place right quick.
When the kids were grown, she left her physically and mentally abusive husband. She left with nothing but the clothes on her back; that was the only way he would agree to a divorce. She started her life over at age 50. Now, bear in mind that in East Texas, in the mid-60’s, divorce was something that just wasn’t done by a proper lady. There were no battered women’s shelters, no support groups. She got a job, bought a house, slowly remodeled the house (by herself), and lived in it for over 30 years. During that time, she twice faced the task that no one should have to face: seeing two of her children to the cemetery.
As I sat in the funeral home chapel Monday, I looked over the group of grandkids. There are 23 of us. Like most families, we’ve had our problems with alcohol, drugs, brushes with the law, bad financial decisions, and bad relationships. I thought about all of the casual references I’d heard over the years where a grandkid would go to Grandma for help. She always had a place for us. It always came with a firm, but gentle reminder that we were raised to know better than that and we knew what was the right thing to do. More than half of us have college degrees now.
Now, folks on this board like to deride Christians. Most of them deserve it. However, this was a lady that practiced her Christianity, she didn’t preach it. She lived the life of love, forgiveness, and acceptance that she learned in church. She almost never said an unkind word about anyone.
The last time I saw her, she had a book in her lap. She never stopped reading and learning. She only recently stopped her gardening. About five years ago, she talked an uncle into driving her to Mt. Rushmore because she had always wanted to see it.
I’ll always remember her as the tall, graceful, white-haired, smiling, soft-spoken grandmother. She always thought before she spoke and her words were measured and effective. If I were to choose one character trait of hers to carry on, this would be it.