I had a mother and I loved her dearly, but she didn’t raise me. My grandma did. My mom was my friend. My grandma was my mother, and yesterday morning my grandma was welcomed by her Savior, and an endless line of loved ones that had been waiting for her including my daddy and Hagen. Heaven rejoiced, and while I am celebrating her homecoming on this side as well, my heart hurts so deeply. The source of that pain is the lifetime of love and devotion that she showed to me, and I already miss everything about her.
Tomorrow I will write her obituary, and I have no idea how I will condense all that she taught me and how much she meant to me into a few short paragraphs. A book would be more appropriate, because she wrote the one we all need to read with her life.
She lived life to the fullest, enjoying every minute of it, never wasting time, and only relaxing for MASH, Perry Mason and most importantly the Holy Bible. When I was 6, she taught me the Lord’s Prayer while teaching me to fold laundry. She taught me not to depend on anyone to do something for me, and made sure I knew how to do things for myself. She taught me to cook following recipes unless she didn’t agree with the ingredients and then how to add a little of this, more if that, oops we put too much of that in there, so add this too. She taught me to sew (it didn’t take), to crochet and the joy of putting a puzzle together. She taught me its best to keep your mouth shut and listen (that’s still a work in progress) and the importance of being the foundation and glue that holds a family together. She was an oak. The pillar of strength and grace and the occasional tongue in cheek remark that left us all wide eyed while she giggled. A foul mouth was not acceptable and I never heard a dirty word escape her lips. I’m sure she thought them based on the look on her face, but we never heard them. She never raised her voice, instead she lowered her chin and her voice and you knew a line had been crossed. She spanked me once in my lifetime and that was because I yelled at her for spanking my brother. That was the last time I defended him! She was independent and proud, stood for what was right and denounced hate, ugliness and meanness. She was an endless source of shenanigans and onoriness, and made sure everyone knew they were loved. She was the queen of hospitality, and always had something prepared to offer you. We learned a long time ago telling her you weren’t hungry was futile and you were going to eat again and take some with you. Many an argument was had over her oatmeal cookies and especially her fruit salad. As adults my brother and I caught a wooden spoon across our knuckles while elbowing our way to the last bit of fruit salad. She was the county historian. If you lived in Marion County, she knew more about your family than you did. That’s a fact. She considered decorating the headstones of many family members in many cemeteries in two counties a duty, and each year made the floral arrangements and issued the declaration to the girls that it was time to go to Gilbert.
Our childhood was so full of adventures. Basketball in the driveway, with her dominating, and Indian leg wrestling tournaments with all 5’6” of her flipping us across the room and my 6’1” daddy to his feet. Grandpa knew better than to get involved and just sat back with amusement and probably pride while she whipped the entire family. When I moved away to college, she got cable so she could keep up with what was going on in the town I lived in. Every wreck and every bad storm meant she had to call a make sure it wasn’t me, and on my trips home, a twenty dollar bill was placed inconspicuously in my had during a “hand hug”. Every payday, unbeknownst to my grandpa, she would put back a $20 in her “mad money” stash so she could help us kids out. When I was having a particularly down day, instead of asking what was wrong, she simply told me to put on makeup. She said that especially on the bad days taking the time to put on makeup and fix your hair would help because then at least you wouldn’t fret over how bad you looked. She was right, and I’ve carried that simple advice through life.
She was 90 when she left and I was still terrified for her to see my tattoos. She was tiny but the fear of disappointing her never left me. She buried her entire family including two husbands, her only child and her first great-grandson, but I saw only two tears escape from her eyes my entire life. One when her momma passed, the other when my grandpa left her after 47 years. None were seen for Hagen or my dad, but that was just another example of her putting her emotions to the side to make sure we were ok. Her kids, me, my brother, and my sister. She was truly the heart of this clan, and everything good in us was instilled by the precious woman of God.
Oh, how our hearts hurt as we face life without her but this pain is so very worth it. To be loved so unconditionally, so sacrificially and so genuinely, is a glimpse into the love our Father has for us. It’s the closest thing there is on this side.
I’ve imagined many times since yesterday morning what might be going on in Heaven now. I know Grandma has experienced the physical embrace of her Savior and I have no doubt she’s heard “Job well done, my good and faithful servant”. If she didn’t, no one will. What makes me smile from ear to ear is imagining the reunion between Hagen and his “home girl”. Only he could get away with calling her that. I’m pretty sure the entire family sat down for ice cream and are still catching up.
There will never be another Betty Lou.
A mother to many.
A mother to me.
Thank you, Grandma for who you were, how BIG you loved, and for all that you left for each of us to carry on. Words won’t describe the void your absence leaves us with, but watch where we go with all that you’ve taught us.