This past July, the matriarch of our family passed away. My Great-Grandmother S. (1908-2013) died at the age of 104. It is amazing to consider just how many world events she lived through and the amount of lifestyle changes she experienced. I remember doing a recorded interview with her on her front porch during the fall several years ago, and her telling of the first time she listened to a radio and the first time she saw an airplane. She even remembered soldiers marching down the main street during WWI. I even did a school report of her experiences as a schoolteacher during the Great Depression.
Grandma was pretty sharp for her age and could remember many things, even though she was pretty much deaf during the last several years of her life. For being quite a family-loving peopleperson, this had to have been quite lonely for her. Still, her bright blue eyes always shone with a light.
“So this is Christmas 2007…” she murmured aloud while we ate our family holiday meal. “I can’t believe how OLD I am!” she’d shake her head.
Having been a schoolteacher, Grandma had a love for learning. In her younger years, Grandma had been a sales representative for World Book Encyclopedia. In an age where most information is online, there was once a day when encyclopedias were a treasure to own. Many in our family own a complete set, due to Grandma’s influence. I remember using them for school reports, before my family got a computer. More often than not however, my sister and I used them to build forts in the back yard.
Going back even further, I remember growing up with the old red and white set of Childcraft books for children, I believe published around 1960 (but don’t quote me). I loved looking at the sweet illustrations and having the fun rhythmical poems read aloud. Sometimes I would act out some of the stories like the Pirate Don Dirk of Dowdee, or do school reports on some of the biographical stories like Dolly Madison. This precious set of books were my mom’s when she was girl, purchased by her parents who got them from… you guessed it! Grandma S., World Book sales rep.
We lived in a different state from Grandma growing up, so we didn’t get to see her all that often. When we did visit, she always had a present for my sister and me. One time she gave me a craft book and another time I received a biography of John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress.
Grandma was a lover of letter writing. She had 28 grandchildren, 60 great-grandchildren, even a few great-greats, but she enjoyed keeping in touch with all of them, and received many letters in return. The family joke was that no one wanted to write anything too personal, because we all knew she’d spread the news to the rest of the clan! One grandson even announced his engagement to the family in Grandma’s letter, knowing it would get around.
At the funeral, there were many tears, but they were not without hope. We all knew where Grandma was… safe, completely well and happy with Jesus. Her life was one of faith and love for God and her family. A couple of years ago, my family and I got the opportunity to live next door to her for about a year, and we would go over and visit her. One time I was surprised to see the book, “Reaching for the Invisible God,” by Phillip Yancey. I think I was surprised that someone nearly 100 years old was still pursuing spiritual growth and seeking to grow closer to God. I guess I thought there was a point where you just stop and wait for the end. Not Grandma.
The story is now told in our family of her last moment on earth. All of a sudden she sat bolt upright in bed, arms outstretched with a look of joy on her face and laughed, like she recognized someone. I think she had known that Someone all her life, and it was now complete joy to be with Him face to face. Jesus is no longer invisible to her.
“It’s a great life…” Grandma often said.