Grams died Saturday, June 13th at 3 PM in hospice care in our home surrounded by her children and grandchildren and great-grand children and great-great grandchildren. She was 93 years old, born September 21, 1921. She lived through the hardships of dust bowl, the Great Depression, World War II (she worked in a factory), and personal struggles of abject poverty, injury (she lost an eye as a girl), death of seven siblings, abandonment by a first husband, single-parenting struggles with 2 or 3 jobs and 4 kids, a lifetime of hard work, and only two years ago, the death of her only son.
Knowing all that Grams had been through, what type of person was Grams do you think? Grams had experience, and she had wisdom. I asked Grams about all of that trouble, and she would tell me: “That’s life,” “We didn’t know we had it hard,” and “We did what we had to do.”
Do you feel sorry for Grams? Don’t, because she did not feel sorrow for herself, and neither did I having been around her for 54 years. Because Grams was a milkshake-drinking, crossword puzzle solving, conversational enthusiast. She was most enthusiastic about me, so it seemed. And as I listened to others talk about her and the influence she had on them, I realize that she was enthusiastic about them as well. It seems that she had a way of making everyone feel that they were here favorite. She loved her family, but she lived a full life in Kansas City even after Gramps died. She wasn’t waiting around for us because she was so busy working, but she loved a visit or a phone call. As her faculties began to decline, we moved her out of her KC home of 40 years to Knoxville into an apartment.
Grams was not a martyr and she was not a whiner. She would expound on details of her day in a conversation and do so enthusiastically. And she would enquire about the details in my life. At 92, she was so glad to hear that I was stopping by her place on my daily walk with Kizzy – it was halfway around the loop. And she met me at the door with a bowl of water for the dog. Then we spent 30 minutes talking about family updates, the latest in her residential community and neighbors lives – she hadn’t seen the elderly woman across from he in a few days, so she had stopped by to inquire.. – and how we folks in Knoxville were the eatingest-out group of people she knew. Her hair appointment on Wednesday morning kept her busy all week it seems in talking about it and getting up early to make sure she was ready to go.
And Grams had no agenda. With an abundance of agenda driven people I know (including myself) who have so little hardship to steer their story, she stood in stark contrast with her silent steadfast commitment to church work and card writing. It seems she had nothing to prove. So why is that? Why didn’t she need to convince herself of pat answers by telling them to everyone else?
She found ways to serve where she was, and she let people serve her with genuine gratitude. Gratitude that did not suffer the false vicissitude of words that seem to boast about the thanker rather than thanking the thanked. A good deed did not need a special award whether given or received because it was normal life.
And Grams good works laid the generational bedrock that supports me now. Her deeds are impressed upon my character both directly and through my Mom’s life. Although I have a different calling and the my times beckon me to a different life, I am find myself positioned well to respond to that calling and to answer my times. It was John Adams who recognized the generation spot to which he was called:
- “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
And so I must recognize that God is using me too, in a different way, to lay down a life of faithfulness and service in the late 20th and early 21st century. My own grandchildren will be affected by the personal decisions that I make, no matter how small. For the beautiful paradox is that we are interconnected and choose immediate actions, but are used by God to unfold His sovereign will, no matter our choice. The wonderful joy is in the knowing that we are being used by Him, and rejoicing in the past fruitfulness, present process, and future hope – another verse that Adams quoted – “Rejoice evermore!.”