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Disheveled Theologian: Remembering Grandma

We knew that my husband’s grandmother, Mary, was near the end of her life. She was, after all, 97 years old. But it still came as a jolt to learn that she had died.

Mary had six children, 16 grandchildren, and 13 great-grands, to date. She was smart, funny, thoughtful, inquisitive, insightful, friendly. Mary didn’t have a fancy college degree, but she was one of the wisest people I have known.

I didn’t know, at first, how to relate to Grandma Mary. My mother’s parents died when I was 4 years old. I remember very little about them. My father’s died when I was in my 20s, but they lived far away and I can count on one hand the number of times I visited them.

So when I came into Colin’s family, I had very little experience with grandparents and I wasn’t used to having family of any kind nearby. I’d done things on my own for a long time, and I didn’t quite know how to relate to all these new relatives. We lived with Mary for two months before finding a home to rent in Worthington, and I quickly learned that she was an extraordinary woman who sought knowledge like no one I’d ever known before.

If ever I said something like, “I don’t know much about Latvia,” for example, she would finish whatever task she was doing at the time and head to her well-worn encyclopedias and maybe half an hour later — long after I’d forgotten about my lack of Latvian knowledge — she’d come out with all these amazing facts about Latvia that she had discovered and we’d learn about things I never knew existed. (Incidentally, my husband does the same thing. Only he uses the internet.)

Mary also told great stories — stories of the family, stories of life when she was young, stories of people she had known — they interlaced her conversations constantly, adding color and interest and humor to every exchange we ever had.

Mary loved her family. She was constantly attending concerts and plays that family members were a part of. She’d drive long distances to come for a birthday, or just a visit. She came to our son’s graduation party in May; that was a gift in and of itself.

She loved making jam — or at least she was awfully good at it — and shared it liberally it with others. She was generous with her talents and skills. She sewed and even made exquisite bobbin lace, until her eyesight denied her that joy.

Mary loved Jesus. Her faith was evident in her conversation and we had good theological discussions together, which I will miss. It’s good to know she’s with Jesus in person now. There’s no better place to be.

I did not know Mary as well as I should have. I did not see her often enough. I failed, in many ways, as a granddaughter-in-law. She never seemed to hold that against me. Our daughter Kathryn Mary is named after my mother and after Mary — two of the most important women in our lives.

I am forever grateful to have known Mary. Whenever I make a cheesecake I think of her (she made me one for my birthday once, though she’d never made one before). She disliked yogurt. She bought pop when it was on sale. She grew raspberries like nobody’s business. She loved birds. This will be the first Halloween in two decades that we’ll not go trick-or-treating at Grandma’s house.

These verses will always make me think of Mary: “Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” Proverbs 8:10,11 NIV

How good God is to have given Mary to us all.