A baby girl born into a farming family. Challenging circumstances presented themselves often. When my grandmother was a girl of about 10, her mother and a sister died within days of one another. And life went right on. I asked Granny once about The Great Depression, and she said she didn’t know a lot about it. “We were poor before it began, and we were poor when it was over,” she told me matter-of-factly. Her comments about her sister’s and mother’s deaths were similar matter-of-fact observations. And these circumstances, only some that I know, are things which set her heart toward tenacity–a determination, a persistence, a stubbornness–to put one foot in front of the other and do what was required of her. Her tenaciousness is genetically strong; the family tree tells me so. She lived this determined stoutness with a much more quiet and private resolution than, say, my lively grandfather.
As the time for Granny’s passing drew nigh, my heart carried a burden that her story be seen and heard, in spite of her guardedness. Because she was so quiet in many ways, the easier thing may be to let her go quietly. In the solitude of a somewhat monastic existence, far more was happening than what met the untrained eye.
She was not to be trifled with, and we all knew it–kids and grandkids alike. She said what she meant, and she meant what she said. Fisherman all over the tri-county area knew well that the fees posted on her door for fishing in Monroe Lake were no joke. A diminutive, feisty woman in an apron (which served as concealment of her pistol) meant business.
Her hands were seldom idle. Our favorite results of her busy hands were cushaw muffins, sloppy pineapple cake, and a kettle of the best green beans anywhere. She made a mean chocolate cake. She always kept spare packs of juicy fruit gum in the cabinet. She carefully hid her stash of Reese’s cups, though we found them sometimes. Checkers, Bingo, and I-Spy kept us kids busy when we were with her. Early learned was the lesson not to tell Granny, “I’m bored.” She’d fix that in a hurry, and not with the games. We were surely well-protected during sleepovers, as she prayed over us and each door and window before she turned in.
She could tell you any one of the grandkid’s birthdays, or most any important birthday or anniversary. Not by checking the calendar, though she did keep a calendar faithfully; it hung on the kitchen wall right by the back porch exit. Her memory was keen. Except when she set out to call out to one grandchild or another. Be assured that nearly every one was named before she got to the one she intended to address.
There were three bedrooms at my grandparents’ house: Granny and Daddy Hob’s room, the girls’ room, and the boys’ room. All three had double beds with feather mattresses, each carefully mended here and there from years of stewarding well. As kids, John Denver’s “Grandma’s Feather Bed” held special meaning to all of us, for we thought sure the songwriter penned it on our behalf. For reference, in case anyone needs to know, feather beds are terribly difficult to return to proper order once they’ve been jumped on.
Laughter flowed more easily from her as farming life and its demands changed over time. At Christmas, she was the greatest gatherer of wadded wrapping paper, and hers was the first thrown in the big fight after the last present was opened. She laughed heartily with us, as if she was remembering something about herself.
As life came at Granny, and it did so harshly at points, she kept clinging to God and to His Word. Every grandchild holds a fixed picture of Granny sitting on the couch reading her Bibles. When asked a question about life and things, her response most often began with, “The Bible says….” She taught us that everyone is a child of God, and so everyone should be treated and viewed as such. Even if she knew that God’s Word instructed against or for various things and what His better answer may be to how people lived, she maybe offered it once and kept the rest to herself. Her deepest and most earnest desire for herself, and for those she loved and knew and for those she only imagined knowing, was to please the Lord.
A woman of persistence, she was relentless in her prayers for her children, grandchildren, and every spouse (even the ones who left the family) of her children or grandchildren, for every relative that she knew of for every spouse, for every pastor she ever met of knew of or heard of, for every church–near or far–that she knew about or that she had seen or heard about somewhere. She prayed tenaciously–stubbornly refusing to cease, lest any of these little ones should be lost. “Let them be doers of the Word, and not merely hearers of the Word,” she prayed over and over again.
What Granny said to all of us over the years may not have been much for our ears to hear , but her life spoke.
Thank you, dear Granny, for your prayers and your example and your tenacity. I pray that the Light, which you put on a lamp stand for all of your household to see, we are able to take into our own households, that we can take it into all the world around us. May we cooperate with the God of all grace as He works to answer your faithful prayers. Know that you are well-pleasing to your Christ.
Yes, He is well pleased with you.
For my grandmother, Cynthia Louise Whitehouse Monroe, December 6, 1925–November 20, 3013