photo credit: Jim McConnell on Flickr
Today my Grammy would have been 99 years old. On this day, especially, I've been thinking of her fondly, remembering her lovingly, and silently mourning the fact that my daughter was not afforded the rich and glorious privlege of knowing her.
And in the spirit of telling stories that empower women, I thought I'd share with you a small piece of Grammy's story. And my story. How our stories and our hands and our lives intertwined...for not nearly long enough.
How does one stand up on a day such as this and attempt to capture in words the entire essence of a person’s life? How can one possibly do justice to the contents of 94 years and 51 days in a few moments or a handful of sentences?
My memories of Grammy are overwhelmingly defined by my childhood. Growing up as a Martin kid, I rarely knew the presence of a “babysitter.” What I had, instead, was a Grammy. Many of my most vivid memories of childhood took place in her home on Beverly Road.
I remember countless sleepovers, and being rocked to sleep in the green upholstered rocking chair. I remember distinctly the way her voice rose and fell as she sang songs into my ear and I drifted into a hazy slumber. I remember the warmth and softness of her lap, and her arms around me.
I remember baking cookies. Not Grammy baking cookies…but all of us baking cookies. The whole ragamuffin bunch of us. Little hands stirring the cookie dough with big wooden spoons. Little tongues licking those spoons…(and bowls, and anything else she would let us get our mouths on!)
I remember her expansive backyard. I recall picking clover on the hill that sloped down from the neighbor’s yard, and picking strawberries from the small patch that ran alongside the house. I remember how Grammy would receive the clover as if they were a dozen red roses, and display them with honor in a vase. I remember plucking mint leaves from the backyard bush, and depositing them into pitchers of iced tea.
I remember sitting outside on lawn chairs, husking corn with Grammy and snapping the ends off of green beans. I remember tossing the beans into the same big pot they’d be boiled in later. And I remember eating the fruit of our labor for dinner.
I remember hauling laundry baskets out the back door, and the lost art of hanging clothes to dry in the sun.
I remember getting down on our knees in the dirt, and planting flowers in the yard. I will never see a daffodil or catch the scent of hyacinths without my mind turning to Grammy.
I remember hours spent reading together and playing together. I remember the corner in the family room crammed with toys and books for the grandkids. I remember dressing up and parading around in Grammy’s clothes.
I remember trips to Friendly’s. And I remember that if she wasn’t taking us out for ice cream she was serving it up Turkey Hill style at home.
These cherished memories, however, don’t end in my early childhood. I recall with great fondness a grandmother who remained an active and involved figure in my life long into her eighties. I remember a grandmother who attended every concert, every play and performance. I remember a grandmother who sang loud in church and laughed hard at home. I remember a grandmother who dried my teenage tears in the same way that she’d dried those of my childhood.
The time that Grammy spent with us, and the joy that she took in those moments, were evidence of the great worth and value that she placed on children. I believe my Grammy took seriously the words and actions of Jesus regarding children. When His disciples quarreled as to who was the greatest, He put a child in their midst and said, “Unless you become like one of these little ones you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” From those childhood hours spent at my Grammy’s side I learned the value of children. My value, as a child. It is a lesson that gave me a strong sense of security as a child, that has aided me as a mother, and that will shape who I one day hope to become as a grandmother.
I lean hard on the lessons that I gained from my Grammy as a child. Lessons of love, patience, faith and kindness. But I also believe that it was in Grammy’s last years and moments of life that she taught us her biggest lessons. For in the same way that Christ extended His hand and His heart to children, He was also always reaching out to the marginalized and the forgotten. The orphan. The widow. The prisoner. The sick and the lonely.
For a woman who maintained her independence for such a long time, the last years of Grammy’s life stood out in stark contrast. She got sick. She got weak. And it had to have made her lonely. She could no longer walk alone without falling. She could no longer talk with clarity and coherence. She needed the same kind of help we’d needed as children- someone to bandage her wounds, to bathe her, to help her to the bathroom. Someone to listen patiently as she tried to express herself. Someone to read to her. Someone to dry her tears.
Just as she’d patiently performed these tasks for us so many times, we learned to gently, patiently, humbly meet her most basic of needs. And in doing so we learned that just as Jesus is especially attuned to the heart of a child, He is also attuned to those whose voices are drowned out by the bustling noise of this busy world. He is concerned with those that the world forgets. And as Christ turns his eyes toward the least of these, so must we.
May we all go back to our lives this night, not grieving, but inspired. Inspired by the loving example of my Grammy. May we go back to our homes and hug our children a little more tightly. Listen to them a little more closely. Love them memorably. And may we similarly seek out others who need our love, our time, our energy and our efforts. The least of these. Because of the example of Christ and of his daughter, Margaret Martin, may no one in our lives go to bed tonight unaware of their value and worth. May no one in our lives spend the night lonely, pushed aside, silenced or forgotten. I know that the voice of my Grammy’s life rings out unsilenced, and Grammy, I will never forget you.
Eulogy written for my Grammy- Clara "Margaret" Eaton Martin
Disclaimer (because for some, it is apparently more important to haggle over such details, than to focus on the intent of this tribute):
**This post was written yesterday (March 3rd), and posted today (March 4th)**