My grandmother is dying. This is not news to us, she has been under hospice care for almost 2 years, but a few days ago she took a turn for the worst and it is probably only a matter of hours now. Eddie & I went to see her yesterday, it is a sad time for the family but because I knew her very well I can say that Mommom most certainly would not have wanted to linger like she has with no quality of life, so it will be a blessing when she goes. Rather than focus on the current state of her fragile body & morphine drips, I’m going to use this post to focus on the impact her life has had.
“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
‘Many women have done excellently,but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.” Proverbs 31: 10-31
I have spent the past year in a church group that focused solely on this verse and how it is something that women can aspire to, but no one will actually achieve, blah blah blah….I know this woman. She was my Mommom, not the one I saw last night, but the one I lived with for three years, the one who was the most dedicated wife, mother & grandmother anyone has ever seen.
I have to smile because I know exactly what she would do if she read this & saw me compare her to that woman in the Bible. She’d roll her eyes and say “Gloryosity! Honey I’m not so special, this is what a grandmom’s supposed to do.” And I guess it is, but the special thing is that she’s the only person I’ve ever met, and probably will ever meet, who’s actually been able to do it.
I am a good mother and I know that, but can’t help but feel a tremendous sense of guilt every time I lose my patience over something stupid-like couch cushions-because my grandmother taught me better than that. I remember a time when my sister accidentally broke a crystal candy dish that had been Mommom’s mother’s. I knew it was very special, because she had told me it was one of the only things that she had of her mom’s and she had fond memories of it from her childhood. I thought Mommom would be upset, or angry, or disappointed. I thought Charlotte would get in trouble. I thought Mommom might cry. Nope. None of the above. She just calmly picked up the pieces and threw them away. Later I asked her if she was upset and she gave me a strange look like she couldn’t understand why I would think that. She said, “Honey, it’s just a candy dish. Your sister is a child.”
To my grandmother children were hands-down the most important thing in the world. She would go out of her way to surround herself with them, watching the lawn-maintenance worker’s boys while he cut several lawns on her block, babysitting us, volunteering at the church nursery or Vacation Bible school program, the list goes on. I’m sure it happened, and I’m sure her own children remember differently, but I never once saw my grandmother lose her patience with a child. I did see her punish children when they needed discipline, but I don’t remember her ever being angry at one. I definitely don’t remember her ever losing her patience with me.
What I do remember is a woman who loved to feed people. Simple but special recipes that I am glad I learned and still make for my own family. It is still a family joke. She literally would not sit down at the dinner table, always jumping up to get something for someone. I remember chocolate eclairs, snowball (frozen chocolate milk), hot milk cakes, crab soup, meatloaf, spaghetti, and instant mashed potatoes. I remember midnight snacks like Bugles & cream cheese. I remember being allowed to help in the kitchen, sitting on the floor with a bowl of pancake batter because I was too little to see over the counter top. I remember setting a fire in the kitchen while helping to make rice crispy treats, but I didn’t get in trouble then either. She calmly put the little fire out and said, “Oh honey, you can’t clean up with a paper towel near the gas stove. Paper catches on fire.” Lesson learned.
I remember games like Hot Butter Beans, Stone School, Stage & Punchanella. The only prop you need to play any of these is a rock, or in our case the red topper from the plastic stacking rings. I remember feeling so special because when we wanted to play “store” Mommom would let us take the real food out of her pantry and line it up along the fireplace. I remember a white pull-out couch w/ two twin beds in it. I’ve never seen another couch like that, but it was awesome. I remember sitting on that couch & reading There’s a Monster at the End of This Book and The Penguin That Hated The Cold, books I have hunted down & now read to my own children.
I remember calling to ask if I could move in while I went to college just a few miles away. I remember how she loved it when we as a special treat we would go to Taco Bell every now and again for lunch. I remember how impressed she was with the quality of their plastic nacho container. She saved several of them to reuse at home. “Why would anyone throw something this nice away?” I remember scoffing at the collection of mismatched plastic containers in her pantry, and I’m sure she’d love to see the Cool Whip & Country Crock containers that I now have in mine.
I remember how it could easily take her over an hour to take her daily walk around the block because she would stop and talk to Alma, or Dot, or Bev, or any one of her thousands of friends. She seemed to know everyone and they all adored her the same way I did. Because she deserved it. Because my Mommom was the kind of woman that God wants every wife and mother to aspire to be. She is the woman in Proverbs 31.
Update: a few days later Mommom passed away. I read this post at the funeral service and my father gave the eulogy. The funeral home opened a temporary wall to make more room for the service, but so many people came that it was still Standing Room Only. In his speech my dad said, “Tuesday morning Heaven became a better place because my mom entered the gates. How many people can you say that about?” He was right.