Monday, August 11, 2008


Gramma was born in 1884, so by the time I took my first breath she was in her late sixties. She was never what one would describe as a beauty, but Grampa found a gem beyond price when he married her -- no one could be a lovelier person.

It seems everyone today is heavily invested "where moth and rust doth corrupt." Kids now grow up in massive homes, are ferried around in expensive cars and go on exotic family vacations -- all paid for with the time Mom spent not supervising those kids. But Gramma never lost sight of the upward calling. People came first in her life and there was no person more important to her than the Lord. To her Bible reading wasn't a duty -- the Bible was the cool water that refreshed her, the bread that sustained her, the air that inspired her. When she spoke of the Lord, she spoke as a bride who breathlessly says her wedding vows while gazing into the eyes of her groom. To Gramma Jesus wasn't merely Lord and Savior, He was clearly her Lord and her Savior.

I remember thinking (when I was about five or six) that grown-ups must get nicer as they get older -- all evidence certainly pointed that way. Sure, Mom was a good person, but she had her moments when five rowdy boys were just a bit too much. But Gramma was a seemingly limitless fountainhead of tenderness and patience. In retrospect, I now know that Gramma must have heaved a huge sigh of relief to see our '54 Nash backing out of the driveway on Mariposa Street, but five-year-old Bobby saw only the sweet Gramma whose soothing voice was just as effective as Dad's stern one at taming rash impulses to slide in socks across hardwood floors. Dad was Sinai; Gramma was Zion. Dad laid down the law; Gramma gave the desire to be better than the law required.

Now I'm not endorsing soft-spokenness as the magical way to discipline children. There comes a time when children need to hear the thundering voice of Sinai, but Gramma simply didn't have that voice. Even when her patience was severely tested, the most ferocious roar she could muster was her euphonious "Now, now -- that's no way to behave." Or in the heat of an argument with her sister Lotta, she might even let fly a scathing, "I beg to differ."

There's an old family story that probably best illustrates Gramma's meekness. My Aunt Mary (my Mom's independent older sister) was about four years old when one day she decided she could do very nicely with a spot of chocolate pudding. She saw no need to involve her mother in this endeavor, and so she proceeded to open every cupboard in the kitchen and unload them of their tins. By the time Gramma intervened the little know-it-all chef was busily dumping the all contents of every kitchen container into a mixing bowl. Now most mothers would have totally lost it upon finding such a mess (I know my mom certainly would have).

But Gramma eyed the disaster with a gentle, "Oh Mary. What are you doing?"

Came the happy reply, "Making chocolate pudding!"

"Now Mary, do you put tea in chocolate pudding?"

Aunt Mary of course replied, "I always put tea in my pudding."

"Well, please let me help you."

The telling of the story always ended there, but I can easily picture the final scene of this play closing with Aunt Mary's little fist cheerfully spooning chocolate pudding into her brown-stained mouth. (Were this a stage play starring little Bobby and his mom, I foresee the overture's kettle drums pounding to the beat of wooden spoon against blue denim.)

My point is not that Gramma's calm, matter-of-fact handling of the situation was the proper way to train children; it's just that this was the sternest reproach Gramma could muster. Gramma was capable of drama, but as far as I could tell, she channeled all of it into reading picture books. When Tootle naughtily left the tracks to go frollic in the daisies, I could tell from Gramma's disapproving tone that this surely would end badly. And I really felt Gramma's disappointment when all those big trains were unwilling to pull that train-load of Christmas presents over the mountain to the boys and girls on the other side. (But luckily that Little Blue Engine with his resolute "I-think-I-can" mantra kicked some ass.)

Gramma died the day before my eleventh birthday. A young lady from the church who (despite decades of age difference) was a close friend of Gramma's sang at the chapel service: Now I Belong to Jesus. How that dear lady kept her composure remains a mystery. Since then, that hymn has become a tradition at funerals in our family.

At church camp the year following Gramma's joining Jesus, at bedtime the loudspeaker across the lake (as was its custom) played taps and then (after the twenty-or-so seconds that it took to exchange the 45-RPM bugle for a 33-RPM LP) George Beverly Shea scratchily began:

Jesus, my Lord will love me forever,
From Him no pow'r of evil can sever,
He gave His life to ransom my soul;
Now I belong to Him;

Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me,
Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity ...

Despite my eyes being squeezed tight, tears silently dripped onto my pillow.

As I said, Now I Belong to Jesus has become a family tradition at funerals. Both my parents have now been laid to rest with that lilting tune reminding us that home is where our Lord is. It's a worthy tradition.

When my three sons were small, I'd tell them bedtime stories and would usually close with a song or two. The lead song on the hit parade was, of course, a rousing rendition of The Ballad of the Alamo, but we'd eventually wind down with Be Still My Soul and when I sensed they were drifting off, I'd leave them with the words:

... Once I was lost in sin's degradation,
Jesus came down to bring me salvation,
Lifted me up from sorrow and shame,
Now I belong to Him;

Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me,
Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.

Joy floods my soul for Jesus has saved me,
Freed me from sin that long had enslaved me.
With His precious blood, He came to redeem,
Now I belong to Him;

Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me,
Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.


LadyBugCrossing said...

She sounds like an amazing woman with a kind gentle spirit. You were so lucky to have her.

Roses said...

Thank you, Bob.
I needed a lovely story like that today.

Jerry said...

"To her Bible reading wasn't a duty -- the Bible was the cool water that refreshed her, the bread that sustained her, the air that inspired her."

A beautiful tribute.

Just the other day we were discussing family and Barbara lamented that she had almost no recollection of her grandparents. I will make sure that she reads this post.

Bou said...

What a wonderful recollection of a great woman. My mother in law was very similar in nature. It has been eight years, 7 months and 6 days... and I still miss her like it was yesterday she was taken from us... leading the Rosary at Mass, on the Altar.

The Friendly Neighborhood Piper said...

its entirely possibly you may have said more than you, or i, imagine...

"Dad was Sinai; Gramma was Zion"

JDP said...

What a beautiful spirit your grandma had. We need more in the world like her.


Ky Woman said...

Truly blessed you were.

Memories of your Gramma will always keep her close. How I miss mine.

Thanks for giving us a glimpse of a wonderful woman, wife and gramma. And a true follower of the Lord.

Bag Blog said...

I had a similar grandmother - thanks for the reminder of a beautiful woman. Obedience is easy when love and respect are involoved.

"But Gramma never lost sight of that upward calling." Keeping your eyes on things above - another great reminder.

Hula Doula said...

Ok I am gently weeping because that is the same song I sang at my grandmother's funeral.
"Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me. Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity!" She use to tell me that a simple period at the end of "...but for eternity." didn't do it justice. It was a joyous explanation. her memorial service we wrote those few lines with the excited of what she felt. Eternity with Him!

Gradual Dazzle said...

What a marvelous post. [snif]

Mrs. Who said...

A beautiful post. Very lovely.