Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Her fragrance in life...
Today is my Grandma Shirley's birthday. But she's not here with us on earth as she passed away last October. I have written on occasion of my dear Grandma as her life was filled with such twists and turns. I still wish she would have written a book- it would be full of tragedy and yet ultimately beauty, love and grace. That's what my Grandma's legacy is for me and so many others whose lives she touched.
The baby picture of her is so special because just like one would expect, my Grandma came into this world in a very unique and special way- yet even her birth story holds some heartbreak. She was born June 22, 1924 in Mitchell, South Dakota to a young woman who left her at the hospital. The nurses grew fond of her after caring for her for a few months and one of them in particular wanted to adopt her. But she was a young, single woman and that's not how things played out back in the 1920's, so this nurse called her married sister in Minnesota and asked her to come and adopt the baby and that's just what took place. My great-grandma, Lydia and ,y great-grandpa Ray Michel, took the train out and back and that's how my Grandma's life story begins.
On days like this her story makes me wonder. I wonder about her mother and father and their families and how they lived their lives never knowing what happened to the sweet, tiny baby left at the hospital. I wonder how my Grandma's life would have been different had she been taken home and grown up under totally different circumstances. Thinking about the circumstances that fell into place in order for me and all my siblings and cousins and my mom and her siblings to be here is an amazing thought. One major detail in my Grandma's life ended up determining so many other things- it's startling to think of what might have or could have been.
My grandma would make the point, if she were writing or telling this story, that she believed that God was ordaining each event and person in her life. She would tell you that even though the circumstances were unusual and even though she faced tragedy and trials like some never have in their lives, that God was in each hardship and He was her steadfast rock and strength. He never failed her.
She would grow up in Minnesota in a very loving family- the oldest of 3. She was a happy girl with laughter and song and a smile for everyone she met. She loved music and I still remember countless songs sung around her piano in her home when I was a girl growing up. My memories of going to Grandma's and spending time in her home are all wonderful. In fact the worst memory I have was a happy one that went bad in a big hurry, but still turned out good in the end.
At about age 5 I was staying at my grandparents while my parents had to be away- and my 2 brothers and 2 sisters were there too. We decided to dress up and play "Here Comes the Bride" and when the plastic flowers were tossed I tried to catch them but ended up hitting my forehead on one of the end tables in the living room. I hit my head hard and ended up needing about 6 stitches on my forehead. It was my grandma who got a warm towel and loaded me up and sat next to me while the doctor stitched me up. I got a tiny piggy bank on the way home and it was my Grandma who put a silver dollar inside of it. She had a way of making even life's tearful moments something to smile about.
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I've been getting up early to go biking the past several days now that summer is warming up and really it has less to do with me wanting to get in shape, as much as it's my time to think and have some breathing room from all my kids that demand so much of me while Chip is busy with the golf season in full swing. It's been so nice for me to catch my breath and to clear my head and I realize how much I crave quiet! I never knew how much I like solitude- it makes me think that maybe I could be a "real writer" at some time in my life. Quiet space lets me collect my thoughts. What I love about biking and how this all plays into my thoughts about my Grandma today is this- there are lots of different homes that I ride past each morning- depending on which route I take. But one in particular made me think of Grandma's house a couple of times as I rode by and smelled breakfast coming from the open windows. The other morning it was the scent of bacon and eggs that almost made me ride up to the front door and ask if I could come in for a quick bite. =) I'm sure it was the kind of breakfast where there would have been plenty for one more to join in. It's exactly the thing that made me think about what made my Grandma so special and it is what I've been thinking about as a frazzled mom most days.
The thing is my Grandma wasn't a wealthy woman. She married a farmer and they worked hard to just keep things going as they started out. There was nothing glamorous about the pigs and chickens she helped to raise. I've heard the stories so I know that firsthand! One of the tragedies that struck her life was when their farmhouse had a terrible fire on Memorial Day in 1953 and she lost her young son in that fire and her husband, Royal, suffered horrible burns and was hospitalized and endured surgeries for over 2 years. He was out of the hospital for such a short time when their familiy had a terrible car accident and then he was killed and my Grandma was hospitalized and laid up for months after that. Several years later she married the Grandpa I knew and loved all the years I was growing up and he was a minister. It goes without saying that he wasn't in a profession for money and they lived humbly all their years together. So money and things and a fancy home or trips or anything that people think they wish they could give or pass on to their family isn't what I recall when I think of my Grandma. It's the memory of the savory breakfasts she cooked up when we were lucky enough to stay over at her house. It's the memory of the hours she spent in the kitchen, especially on Thanksgiving, to pull off a feast that I'll never be able to recreate. The food was outstanding because she poured her heart into it. It never mattered that her house was so crowded with all of the relatives that sometimes you got a seat where once you were in your spot you knew you wouldn't be getting out of that spot until at least 6 other people moved from theirs first! =) Her home always smelled welcoming- whether it was a holiday or not. She made it comfortable and it was the way she met us at the door with the best hugs and 'hello' that we all looked forward to the most.
Life sure tried it's best to un-do her so many times. She had a rough road and yet I grew up loving her jokes, her stories, her pies, her music, her friends and especially hearing about how God had seen her through it all- the good AND the bad. She loved Jesus with all her heart and she shared the love He calls us to share with everyone she came in contact with. Her life fragrance is something I can close my eyes and still imagine it so clearly. She lived her life in a way that attracted people to her- you wanted to be around my Grandma because there was just something so likable about her.
There are some beautiful homes on my bike route. Some have gorgeous landscapes and manicured lawns. I don't know what kind of people live inside of them. I'm sure they are nice, but what struck me on my bike ride is how I was so drawn to the humble home- the much more lowly home where the scent of "goodness" was one that nearly drew me in. My grandma was like that home. Granted I think she was beautiful inside and out- so she's sort of a mix of the nice homes and the lowly home. But her legacy makes me want to live my life so that the aroma I give off- the attitude that I express, the words that I say, the manner in which I show love or not- makes me want to strive harder to be the kind of person that will be remembered for being a "sweet scent" in this life.
I'm so fortunate that the unique circumstances that surrounded my Grandma's birth led to the family she was adopted into and grew into the family I feel grateful to be a part of today. I am striving to follow Jesus the way my Grandma lived and I am thankful for her example of steadfastness no matter what comes our way. I think of her so many times and I'll never forget the way she smells to me... she's that wonderful. One day I know I will see her again; oh what a day that will be!