Other things may change us but we start, and end, with family.~ Anthony Brandt
I find it sad as I age that I meet so many interesting people at funerals. Why is it that we all too often don’t take the measure of a person, or their unique attributes and place in this world, until they are gone?
I didn’t know my husband’s grandmother well. Her family was large and the branches were many. Sadie had a passel of kids (and right there shows my ignorance that I cannot recall just exactly how many children there were).
They, in turn, had more children, and so on. My father-in-law, Wonderful Sr., was one of her sons. While we loved Grandma Sadie, the truth was the family had grown and branched in such a way that we didn’t get together for holidays or birthdays with her. With the sheer number of buds on her family tree, I think it would have required renting a hall.
Still, what I knew of her was always impressive.
Tall, trim, her figure would never have given away the number of children she had borne (meanwhile I blame my own “baby fat” on exactly two babies — the youngest of whom is 11).
Hers is not my story to tell, but I believe the term “hardscrabble” would not be ill-applied. I know that she was born in 1922 in West Virginia. I know that she and her husband would have trials, tribulations and a marriage that would still last 56 years until his death parted them, just as their marriage vows had promised.
I know that she was a reverent, deeply religious woman, pious and good Christian in the truest sense of the word.
I also know that she was true to her faith without drifting into the kind of cold judgment that trips up so many believers.
When I hear of some of the antics of Mr. Wonderful, as a boy, I suspect that Grandma Sadie’s prayers are behind his remaining healthy and whole in spite of his own best efforts.
He has a host of uncles and cousins who share his fervent delight in the embrace of danger. I would venture to say that it was only Grandma Sadie’s dedication to prayer that kept so many of them in good stead all these years.
When she passed away last week, we were sorry to see her leave us, yet aware that she had finally reached the point she had prayed and hoped for all her life. The good and righteous do not fear death, but embrace it. It is those of us left behind who weep. Sadie was surely rejoicing.
Sitting in the little church she considered home, I listened to the eulogies for a truly good woman — one of those “salt of the earth” people you hear of often, but meet too rarely. A person of faith, loyalty and kindness. A woman so honest that her son told of how his mom wouldn’t even eat blackberries her children brought her if she couldn’t be sure they had gotten proper permission to pick them.
Watching him say goodbye, I suddenly saw in my strong, capable, father-in-law the child we all are — and will always be — in the eyes of our mothers. Even if the child is in his 60s and his mother is 87.
Waiting in the small church as mourners filed past the family, I thought it wondrous that a woman who would have asked for no limelight, had a crowd that stretched out the door. I have prided myself on being the kind of mother that doesn’t suffer the delusion that the children are somehow “more mine.” Still, it’s easy to attribute certain traits in my children to my own, strong, hard-working grandparents, or perhaps my eloquent and highly educated great-grandmother.
Yet as I stood in that small country church, I couldn’t help but get the chills as I looked around at all the people who were strangers to me in the inevitable way of very distant in-law relations, but who shared my children’s faces.
Beyond the curve of a jaw or profile of a nose, I wonder does the same grit, determination, loyalty and spirit that made Grandma Sadie who she was get passed down to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, too? I can only hope so.
The obituary says that Grandma Sadie lived 87 years. I like to think that obituaries are allowed creative license, but we all know that one lied. Anyone who has such deep abiding faith and so many who loved him lives far beyond her own years.
If we’re really lucky, all the best parts of people like Grandma Sadie live on in all of us. If we’re really smart, we pray they do.
Kymberly Foster Seabolt urges everyone to call their grandma.