Tuesday, March 8, 2016

My Granny - a Strong Woman

Last May my Granny passed away and I was asked to speak at her funeral; it was an honor to tell her story.

For International Women's Day I'm also sharing her story with you. It's the story of one woman's life and her strength to overcome and build a legacy.


The truth is Granny is the most incredible person I’ve ever known. She’s probably the most incredible person you’ve known too.

We’re all familiar with the story of Granny’s life but today I’m going to walk us through it again. Because it’s an exceptional story. Its the story of a true heroine, through trials and adversity, devastating loss, and triumph through the power of love and family.

Granny was born October 5th 1922  at home by candle light. They paid the doctor with some money and a chicken. It was a humble beginning for a woman who would touch more lives than we will ever know.

From what granny has told us, she grew up on a farm, eating all the best food, and even blood soup! We know the stories of horses poking their heads in windows and cats keeping the beds warm at night. We know that granny finished high school, something that not all of her brothers and sisters did.

Of course we know that Granny eloped and was married to James Barnes in a red dress! She was so young when she married that the state required an adult to consent to it. I would have loved to have known her back then. I think she must have had a wild streak in her.

Early married life wasn’t easy but Granny was strong. She built her home with her husband. Their hands laid the foundations and raised the walls.

Shortly thereafter Aunt Kathleen was born. It was a frigid winter that year. Granny had to stay up keeping the fire going to keep the house warm. She bundled Aunt Kathleen with coats and hats and slept with her in bed. Granny was strong and Granny was smart. She and Kathleen made it through the winter.

My mother was born long after her sisters Kathleen and Eleanor. She was a surprise. An unplanned, unexpected baby. Around that time a family member told Granny, “trust me Marie, you will be so happy to have this child.” We all know that my mother has been an incredible daughter to Granny. We know that my mom laid down her time, her wants, her plans - for her mother. My mother laid down her life to serve Granny when the time came, and it has been beautiful to watch. I pray that someday I can show my love to her as richly as she showed love to Granny.

When my mom was just 4 years old her father died. It was 1960. Now, Granny was left with 3 daughters to raise and no more than a high school diploma. It was a time before women were truly in the workforce. There was no equity of pay. There weren’t numerous social programs to help granny out. She had her strength, she had her growing wisdom, and she had her faith that God would help her. I can imagine how easy it would have been for Granny to give up. To fall into a deep depression. Raising children alone, with little income… It could have been insurmountably difficult. But not for Granny. I don’t know how long she was sad or if she became depressed for a time, but I do know that she overcame. I know that granny was faced horrible odds and she pulled herself together and she loved her daughters. At some point early in her life Granny decided that her family was the most important thing she could ever have, that she could ever care for. To Granny family was the most important part of life.

When I walked through her apartment after her death I took it all in. At one time she said it looked like a German immigrant’s apartment… It really did! She didn’t have fine things, new things, fancy things. She had things that you gave her. She had the photo from your first day of school, the napkin from your birthday party. She had the trinkets you bought her for a dollar. Walking through Granny’s apartment it was clear to me, we were her treasures. You, me, all of us, we were Granny’s most prized possessions on this Earth.

Granny didn’t have had much money but she was rich in love. She loved and forgave like it was her job.

After James, my grandfather, passed she went on to get a job and provide for her daughters. My mom said that growing up she never knew they were poor.

Granny was a fierce protector. We know that she worried a lot… But I believe that’s because she had truly seen the world. She didn’t wear rose colored glasses. Her mission in life was to love us all, to teach us how to live a good life, and to protect us whenever possible. Even sometimes when we didn’t want protecting.

We’re all here today because we were touched by Granny’s life. In ways that you may not see, she has shaped you with her example, and with her love, and with her wisdom. And if you’re here as a friend, its because you were touched because of what Granny had shown us.

When my life has been hard, or when I want to do something that just seemed to be just too much, I remember Granny. Granny did it. She was a strong woman in a time before women were strong. I have that strength inside of me. As a woman I am who I am because of Granny and because of my mother. I know that I am a strong woman. I know that I will be a fierce protector of my children and my family. Because of Granny my daughters will grow up knowing that they are strong. They will know that they can do anything. Build a house. Raise a family. Go to the moon. They will know that they are strong too. Because of Granny, and the legacy of love that she’s left behind I can see clearly that family is always worth fighting for, it’s always worth sacrificing for. I don’t know if Granny ever had a different plan for her life. She made her purpose loving us and sending each of us on our paths, she has given us all the gift of her life laid down, to see that we had good lives.

As we go on our own paths I hope that we can honor Granny.

In the list of things she was always telling us to do I believe the most important are to keep loving and forgiving one another. Before Granny died I asked her what she really wanted me to know and she said, “if you fight with anyone, let it go, say a prayer for them and move on.”

She also told me to teach all of my children to be afraid of snakes!

Granny loved each and everyone of you. She could be a best friend, a mother, a boss, a grandma, a great grandma. She could be whomever you needed her to be. And if she loved you once, she always loved you. I don’t think I’ll ever meet anyone as incredible as my Granny, and I know I’ll miss her forever.

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