Volume 8, Issue 4: Femina
My mother recently gave me a letter written in faded pencil on yellowed notebook paper. I had sent it to my granny in 1963, thanking her for the pajamas, hankies, socks and perfume she had sent for my eleventh birthday. The last six lines of page two are filled with x's and o's, affectionate tokens of hugs and kisses. Granny saved my letters, and when she passed on, my mother saved the letters. The penmanship is fair, the content predictable, and the form is self-consciously by the book. Not much worth saving really. But the fact of the letter speaks volumes about something far more important than the weather at girl scout camp.
My parents taught me to love and respect my grandma. That meant writing thank-you letters when I received a gift, as well as writing newsy letters from time to time. I remember my mother (Granny's only child) writing her mom once a week. I also remember the trips to see Granny and her trips to visit us.
Over the years she gradually became cranky. Still my parents would travel a couple thousand miles each year to see her. In between times they called and wrote and sent gifts. The last time they went to visit she wouldn't let my mother even use her washing machine, so my folks went to the laundromat. Shortly after this visit ended, Granny had a stroke. My parents hurried back to take care of her. Mom took her meals (she wouldn't eat the hospital food). After the stroke Granny was more uncooperative than ever. Mom learned to give her insulin shots. Dad sold her house, got a moving van, loaded up all her belongings, drove back to Idaho, and started making preparations for his mother-in-law to move in. Mom stayed until Granny was well enough to travel and then they flew home.
Mom and Dad were living in a mobile home while they were building their house. Dad rearranged the floor plans so Granny could have a room near theirs.
It wasn't easy. But God never promised obedience would be easy. He did promise blessings and grace and strength, and that is what He gave. My parents had been free to travel and suddenly they had a fulltime responsibility at home again.
Initially Granny was not always pleasant, but God began to work a wonderful change in her. Though her speech remained garbled and confused as a result of her stroke, her heart cleared. She could say a few intelligible sentences: "Isn't that lovely?" "He [meaning my dad] is the sweetest thing!" "This is wonderful." She became a sweetness and a joy. She loved to sing and pray, fold clothes; she was always pleased with meals, enjoyed watching my dad work outside; flowers were a delight to her. Mom kept her dressed nicely, her hair always done, her room bright and cheery.
Even so, it was sometimes hard for my parents. They sacrificed some of their best years when they could have been traveling and "enjoying life." Instead they were enjoying Granny, taking her for rides to see the Christmas lights or the flowers in bloom.
When they talked to Granny about her salvation, she always responded in agreement, though her sentences were mixed up. God obviously had intervened and worked a marvelous change in her life. She was not the same woman.
One morning Mom was with Granny in her sunny room. Granny was in her bed when suddenly she looked up and smiled, and reached out her hand. Then she was gone. At first my mother assumed Granny had been reaching out to her, looking up at her. But then she realized that Granny had probably been responding to another presence in the room--she had looked up with a smile and reached out. What a glorious departure!
My parents' love and commitment has taught my family a tremendous amount about what obedience looks like. God was honored through their honoring of my Granny. My children received a blessing through their obedience as well, for they not only got to know their great-grandmother, but they saw God transform a bitter old woman (who would have died bitter and desolate in a nursing home) into a sweet little dear. They have seen what a Christian family does for aging parents, and they have seen the "inconvenience" and hardship coupled with the fruit of obedience.
I will always be grateful to my parents for keeping my letters to Granny, for teaching me to love and honor her, and for honoring and loving her themselves. May we all be blessed to have such children as my Granny had.