Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In Honor of Mothers

Remembering My Grandmother

When my grandmother died there were so many things I still wanted to ask her. Questions about her life- my heritage, that will now go unanswered, at least from her perspective. Some things I knew from listening to her reminiscing. Sometimes memories escaped into words before she realized she was thinking out loud. She chose only to share the good. Those rare times when thoughts went back to the not-so-good, she would share only a small glimpse and quickly return to the present.

I know from listening to relatives that life was not easy for her. Childhood was not a walk through a world of wonder and beauty, no, for her and her siblings it was much different. There was abuse that no one wanted to talk about, then or now. Ignorance, poverty, and lack of trust held their childhood hopes and dreams captive in a world of cruelty and injustice. Perhaps she chose not to talk about it because there are no words a person can use to describe such hateful acts done to a child. Some things are too ugly to even be thoughts or whispers.

My heart hurts for that child who was my grandmother, but I never knew that child because she would not share that part of her life with me. For reasons only she knew, she chose to spare us the memory of her pain and neglect. What she chose to share with me was a very different person; leaving the past behind as though she could shut a door and the memories would disappear. Today we would probably call this denial. Is it denial to choose to not live in the hurt of the past; to stop asking over and over again, “why?” She chose to take that energy and use it to live now and to do good works.

She was, as I remember, a very ordered woman. One who had every day of the week planned out, Wednesday was prayer meeting, Sunday was church and rest. In between were the chores, always done on the same day of the week, it was a sure thing. She brought under control a life that as a child she had no control over. Perhaps this was her way of feeling safe, all the edges of her life tucked inside the boundaries of her weekly routine; manageable.

She had her rough edges of moodiness, but inside was a tender heart and a giving spirit. Many a seminary student would receive financial support from her giving heart. Friends and relatives in need were never turned away and seldom had to even ask. She was not rich with wealth but always seemed to have enough to share.

She loved to collect things and enjoyed buying these things for others. She collected dolls and I wonder now if she ever had one when she was a little girl. If not, was it enough to have them now? As I look at her dolls I think of the little girl inside my grandmother and her life now passed. It seems so strange for them to be here without her.

When she died I could only think that I wanted to know her better, though I’ve known her all my life. How could there be so much I didn’t know? What I do know is that the time she was my grandmother, she was a godly woman. She wasn’t always that way, but that part of her life she also chose not to share with me. My imagination mixed with the small portions I did hear about, have created in my mind a memory of a very wild period in her life; the time she met my grandfather. That is where my knowledge ends. I think if she were here right now and I asked her about this period of her life, she would brush it aside as though she were sweeping the floor and say, “Then I got Jesus.” And that would be that.

I knew she loved Jesus, she told me so. But more than telling me, she showed me. I watched her cry and pray over the years in her “prayer meetings” with the Lord. She used to say, “Honey, I’m not sad, I’m happy.” I never understood as a child, but I do now. If it doesn’t involve tears, it’s not praying!

I learned about sacrificial love from watching her. The last part of her life was spent caring for my invalid grandfather. She wouldn’t think of putting him in a “home.” She did this for ten years, and when he died, most of my grandmother’s strength died with him. She sacrificially poured herself out as a drink offering in the service of love to him.

I don’t know much about my family’s past, and if I never learn more, I know this – that my Christian heritage begins here, in the memory of this godly woman I called my grandmother. Though some questions go unanswered, it is enough to know she chose the good in life and put the bad behind her. That is a lesson I hope I have learned.

I picture her in heaven, in the company of my grandfather hearing from the King of Kings, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into my rest.” She was not perfect, no, far from perfect, but covered in His grace.

I miss you grandma! I love you. Thank you for the good memories you left with me. I will cherish them until we are together again.

“You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your Name.” Psalm 61:5

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