December 31, 1921. In my research nothing over the top seemed to happen that day. But as 1921 drew to a close, Genevieve Marie was born. I don’t have the exact details of her birth but I do know that she was about to endure an amazing long journey, 93 years long. I know bits and pieces from her childhood, like she was raised on a farm as a young child in Ohio before her parents got divorced. Her aunts moved to California then sent money for her, her mother and sister. They took a train from Ohio to California and started a new life there. As a teenager her sister and brother-in-law would introduce her to her future husband, who claims he met her on the badminton court at work. Just a few days ago my grandfather told me that, “oh, yes, she was what I was looking for.”. I love how a 99 year old mind can recall the specific details of 75 years ago, while I’m not sure what I had for lunch yesterday.
She was a mere 19 years old when they married. She had an amazing beautiful lace wedding gown. She had three beautiful children, six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. She was the aunt to her sister’s twelve children. But who was she? This gentle spirited woman who gave up her extended family and home to follow her husband’s dream and career across the county all the while continuing to write to her son in Vietnam daily, while they made the trek across the country. That is a mother’s faithful, pure love. As she settled in to her new home in Pennsylvania with what I would think would have come with a little culture shock…late 60’s in Bucks County, PA verses southern California…she once told me that the only corn tortillas she could buy when they moved here were in a can of oil…yummm??? My dad says one of his favorite memories of her is when he made his way off the plane from Vietnam in Philadelphia and saw her standing there with a smile only a momma’s healed heart can produce. I can’t imagine the faith journey she traveled that year while her son was away in one of the most deadly wars our country had ever seen.
I have so many amazing memories with her, as I take the time to really reflect back, I don’t really remember a time that she wasn’t teaching me, loving me or sharing with me. Her gentle hands laid cool wash clothes on my forehead when I was sick. They showed me how to crochet, cross stitch and patty-cake. Those same hands taught me how to kneed bread, make cookies and feed the birds. She used those same hands to make me soup, peanut butter & honey sandwiches (which my youngest takes for lunch daily) and carrot salad. She also used them to comfort me, to wash my face with her little “pitchy potchy” sing-song she would say as she did it, and to read me books and braid my hair. As I grew and had a family of my own, she would use those hands to swaddle my babies, teach me about newborns and fold my laundry. She came to see each one of our children hours after we had them, always with that smile. And yet when you look up the definition of a grandmother, all I can find is ‘ancestor’ or ‘mother of ones father or mother’- how she was so much more then that.
When she started to develop dementia several years ago, the heart breaking part was losing those little things. Those things that I believe in my heart never left her, but her body wouldn’t let her do anymore. How trapped she must have felt. She was in there but couldn’t come out. We would visit and once I could get her attention, her eyes would light up and she would smile that smile for a split second. And I knew she was in there. I have no doubt that when she took her final breath here and her first breath in heaven that it was like the breath you take after you hold your breath too long under water. It was freeing, refreshing and glorious. I picture the pure joy when she was reunited with my brother…I wonder if she’s let him go yet or is still hugging him, that perfect little boy she loved with her whole heart. She loved each of grandchildren with that same quiet passionate love.
Though the past week has been difficult and draining both physically and mentally, I got to see His plan continue to unfold. I got to see her children come together to sit with her for hours at a time. I got to see the hands of nurses and doctors comfort her and her family. I got to see God soften my grandfather, who was once this hard, self-asserted, steadfast man into this gentle, warm, compassionate man who sat with her daily at their kitchen table for hours, holding her hand, then by her bedside each day. I got to see Him change him, watch him rub her arm, kiss her forehead and call her ‘my girl’. I got to hold his hand as he would come to the realization that her time left with us was short. I got to put my arm around him when he nodded his head and said, “ok, we will meet again.”. I got to see God stop the rain and send a rainbow during a hard day for all of us before He sent the rain again. I got to see my oldest son hold her hand, talk to her when she moved her eyes up to him and watched him cover up her up gently before we left her room. I got to pray with my parents and my pastor outside her hospital room door. And I got to hold my dad as he left his pain at the foot of the cross as we knelt on the alter rail at church. And through it all I was blessed to feel His presence with us.
And now all I truly want is to serve Him in the quiet special way she did. I want to leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren like she did. I want others to see Christ in me like they did in her. I am thankful to have been placed in her pond and be part of her ripple effect.
“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6