My husband’s grandmother was one of the kindest, smartest, and most encouraging people I have ever known. She lived an inspiring life, not due to opportunities that came to her, but because of how she chose to make the most of what happened along the way.
“Mommy” married late in her life, into a family of curious folks, and she loved them all dearly. Before this marriage, and after, she provided care and often a place to call home for her own mother and her brothers at various times of need in their lives. She was a mother to her husband’s children and she took care of him during his bout with cancer. After his death she was the glue that held the family of grown children together.
These children were all their own kind of people, including my husband’s father. They just lived life differently from most folks. My husband was adopted, and she, of course, was the stepmother, and towards the end of her days she would have a good laugh with my husband and tell him they should both be glad they didn’t have that family bloodline coursing through their veins. Yet she appreciated and cherished each of them for who they were, and was ever thankful that they had taken her in and given her a family to whom she could belong.
She was an intelligent bookkeeper who had a good business mind. Her husband was a dreamer, and she would often have to be the level headed one in the relationship. She often said, “He had his head up in the clouds with his grand ideas and big plans, and it was my job to hold his feet down here on terra firma.”
Mommy knew more about current events than anyone else I knew. Even as macular degeneration claimed her eyesight and congestive heart failure weakened her physical condition, she was always listening to the TV or radio so she could keep up with what was going on. Once she asked my husband, “Honey, do you work with computers?” “Yes ma’am, every day,” he answered. “Well, I think they can cause more problems than they solve. I think they are of the devil,” she replied. “Some days I would have to agree with you on that,” my husband nodded.
We loved to hear her play the electric organ when we would go visit. The concerts were wonderful, filled with old hymns and other songs from her generation. When our daughter first learned to play the piano, Mommy would listen to her and encourage her ability. She loved toe-tapping tunes as well as emotion-filled melodies.
Mommy was an accomplished cook, and she would have the family for Christmas dinner, laden with her homemade delights. I best remember her rolls, the most delicious I have ever had anywhere, always soft and scrumptious, melt-in-your-mouth wonderful, in an endless supply. And she always sent us out the door with a frozen coconut cake that was heavenly, even to someone like me who doesn’t normally like coconut. I remember the light-as-a-cloud texture of the cake, the creaminess of the frosting, the hand-grated coconut. What I would give to taste those rolls or that cake one more time!
During her last days Mommy became so weak she had to go to a nursing home. The last time she was conscious when we visited her was one evening after dinner, and her room was quiet and still. She spoke clearly to us in a soft voice, and told us of the joy that was filling her soul. “Don’t be afraid of this time in your life when it comes. I can hear the angels singing. I see a lovely place full of light and peace. Don’t be fearful of this when you are old one day. This is all so beautiful.”
There is a concept in Celtic tradition called “thin spaces” — the moments when we experience a deep sense of God’s presence in our everyday world, where the veil between heaven and earth is lifted for a brief moment. This was one of those times. We were so aware of the presence of God in that small room, and His glory was reflected on her face. These thin spaces are said to be times when God draws you up into his arms and whispers His love to you, and so it was that night. Of the countless ways Mommy influenced our lives and touched our hearts, this was the best gift she could have ever left with us, and it continues to dwell in us all of our days.