Sunday, November 20, 2011

Beauty For Ashes

She was born in 1935 in Oklahoma in her grandmother's house in Love County.
Not even her own house.
The town is nearly empty now.

If you've read American history,
you know that Oklahoma in 1935 was an ecological disaster.
An unheard of catastrophe.
Her family joined the largest migration
in the shortest amount of time in U.S. history,
and moved to California.
They picked cotton when she was five.
They picked prunes.
Her father dug tunnels for the mines.
He worked on roofs and at carpentry.
Her grandfather died before she was four of TB,
leaving her father to provide for his own wife and children
and his family of origin.
He had three older sisters, three younger sisters, and two younger brothers.
Her grandfather's brother also died of TB.
My Grandma and her brother came down with TB.
It required 15 months or more in a TB hospital when she was six --
which is where she was first taught to knit by a nurse.
Two older women from the Assemblies of God church
traveled out to where she lived in Northern California,
and began a Sunday School.
She went with a number of other children from her neighborhood,
and in 1945 was baptized in the creek.

There were four children when her home was broken.
Her father remarried and moved to Alaska.
Her mother remarried a man with four children,
two of which joined their household.
Being the only girl in the home,
at 14 she had the responsibility of making breakfast for six,
getting lunches for them all, doing all the dishes,
making the beds, and getting them to school.
They were late.

In 1949 she came home from school one day and a neighbor said,
"You all's house burned down."
Her stepfather had the top of his head burned
by the fire that came under the door of the room he was sleeping in.
In 1952 Papa's family moved into the area.
She told me once when I asked her about Papa,
that he had asked her seven times to marry him before she said yes.
His final winning proposal was, "When are you going to marry me?"

Mother to five children, she took in two more while hers were still young.
She has so many grandchildren (both real and adopted)
that we have difficulty counting ourselves. 22?
And great grandchildren? I think 20.
But her habit of adopting those who might need a 'bonus grandma'
has spread to her own children,
and those have been accepted in just as readily as her own.

I doubt she has left any money to her heirs,
because she probably spent it all on gasoline and Motel 6 and postage stamps.
Every one of us has something she made with her own hands.
She gave up knitting when she learned how to crochet,
and her hands have been busy with it for many years.
I never saw her when she wasn't giving something to someone.
She opened her trunk as soon as she drove up
and came up with something for each grandchild.
If she didn't have something, she sat down and made something.
And if it wasn't finished by the time she had to leave, she mailed it.
She gave to her children,
and she gave to her grandchildren,
and she gave to her great grandchildren,
and she gave to old people in homes,
and she gave to homeless people,
and the babies of strangers.
And just this week, in characteristic fashion,
she made the plans final that she has always intended.
She gave her body to science.

Her life began in the ashes of what might be called a plague.
But it has been a life of love, and forgiveness, and thankfulness and praise.
A legacy of grace.
When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, she said,
"What I know is that the Bible says
'He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.'"

She had four generations of her family around her in her final weeks,
praying with her, singing with her.
She made videos for her children and grandchildren,
reminding them of the truths in Philippians
which she had been in the habit of telling them for many years.
"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me -- and that means you."

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; 
because the LORD hath anointed me to publish good tidings to the meek; 
he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, 
to proclaim liberty to the captives, 
and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, 
and the day of vengeance of our God; 
to comfort all that mourn; 
To appoint to them that mourn in Zion, 
to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, 
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; 
that they may be called trees of righteousness, 
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. 
~From Isaiah 61

1 comment:

auraandjamie said...

This is so beautiful. It made me cry, How blessed you are to have such a rich heritage!