My grandmother passed away yesterday. She had run a long race, 94 years. Her death closes the book on a generation on my mom’s side.
My grandmother was a redhead. I never saw her red hair because by the time they had color photography, her hair was completely white. She was a beautiful, creative woman who married a elvish-looking school principle with a mischievous sense of humor and an infectious laugh. They waited for years to married while my grandfather was a teletype repairman in Italy during WWII. My grandfather was on a boat in the Atlantic heading to the Pacific conflict when the war ended. His was one of the first boats to pull in to port in NYC during the celebrations. He was probably thinking of a certain redhead on Long Island.
My mom was born into the back woods of Kentucky. At that time, My grandparents were missionaries to people who were not far removed from the Hatfields and the McCoys. Grandma and her sister Phyllis, eventually self-published a memoir of their experiences in Kentucky.
I got to know my grandmother when they moved to Chattanooga, just down the street from us. I remember her as a kinetic force of domesticity. She was constantly cooking, sewing, or gardening. We would go to their house and play Upwords, Rumicube and Scategories. Eventually, around the time I graduated high school, my grandma and grandpa and my great aunt Phyllis sold their place and moved into a big St Elmo four square home with my parents. My college years involved an interesting blended household in which octogenarians coexisted in the same home with boomers and gen-Xers. My mother was the administrator, ambassador, and counselor for all 6 of us. Eventually, as Phyllis and my grandfather began to physically slip into dementia and Parkinson’s, my mom and my grandma became 24 hour care-givers.
Since my grandfather died, my grandmother has been living out her days in a nursing home in north Georgia. Mom went to see her every other day, going horse from shouting into grandma’s “pocket-talker” and bringing pictures and news of great grand children and prayer requests to keep her occupied. Eventually, she couldn’t see well enough to read. She had become unable to serve or be productive in any way other than prayer.
Two weeks ago, we were celebrating Thanksgiving. My dad brought Grandma over for a few hours. The last conversation I had with her was to make sure that she saw my daughter’s skirt. It was hand-made by my wife so I knew that Grandma would be interested in it. Grandma sat there in her in wheelchair watching her great grand children run circles around her with light-sabers and princess dresses.
Grandma loved Jesus. Now, maybe she’s the one running circles around his throne. Her hair is red again, her hearing is restored. Gilbert and Phyllis are there and Great Grandpa and Grandma Anderson. Maybe she’s baking or sewing a dress. Her life was a monument to God’s grace and to the power of prayer.
Thank you, grandma. We miss you.