Last week I received the sudden news that my grandmother was gone. It’s hard to explain to those who didn’t know her what a shock it was to hear of her death, since she was almost 91.
My grandma was a “farm woman,” as her doctor called her. I believe his exact words were, at least as reported to me, “You farm women live forever.” And a part of me thought this could be true. After all, at 90 years of age she was still living on her own, taking care of her house, vegetable garden, and pond in rural Ohio, and she took less medication than almost anyone I know.
Yet that day she passed away peacefully in her favorite chair. I know she is with God and my grandfather, whom she missed terribly in the almost two years since he had passed away, and her son, who died tragically in a blizzard as a young man. Yet she was the center around which that side of my family revolved, and so we’re left with a gaping hole in the fabric of our lives.
When we were thinking back on her life and what verses to read at her funeral, the one that came immediately to mind for me was Proverbs 31. Oh, that Proverbs 31 woman who seems so out of reach for so many women of my generation. She’s the “capable wife” who rises early, cares for her family, brings honor to her husband, runs a successful household, provides food for everyone, works hard, and is physically strong, yet also is characterized by wisdom, kindness, and laughter.
These lines describe my grandmother so well, I could hardly believe I hadn’t put the two together this way before.
She was the kind of person who never seemed to sit down. I remember her always being in the kitchen. Either she was cooking or baking something amazing from scratch (her homemade chicken and noodles and cherry pies were legendary) or she was keeping anyone else in the kitchen company. She was the opposite of idle, seemingly full of energy and always looking for something to do, some way to help.
She loved people and taking care of others. She cared for my grandfather for their entire married life, a task that required increasing selflessness during his last few years, as his health began to fail.
An eminently practical woman herself, I think my grandmother sometimes worried I was too impractical to live. From the time I got my finger stuck in the hand mixer and she had to rescue me to the way I always had my nose in a book, I was someone she feared might not make it to adulthood. I hope that it pleased her that I did in fact manage to common-sense-up enough to marry and have two sons of my own.
Yet for all her sensibleness, my grandmother also had a great sense of humor. She was always smiling and teasing. My husband’s favorite memory of her was when, shortly after they met, she came up behind him in the kitchen and started tickling his waist. He turned around to grab her arms, thinking it was me, and was shocked to discover it was Grandma! After that, he knew she liked him.
I love remembering how she always had time to talk on the phone and hear all the news. She even liked talking on the phone to my four-year-old, who can be difficult to understand and often makes great logical and conversational leaps that even I, who often know the context, cannot always follow. She loved her family and never tired of hearing all the news going on in our lives.
I’ve read some great posts about how the Proverbs 31 woman is not meant to be an impossible ideal, as many of us see her, but instead meant to remind husbands and children to celebrate their wives and mothers. I love this perspective. For me, the wife described in Proverbs 31 will always bring to mind my grandmother and how much we all loved and respected her. And if I view her life as a model to follow, so much the better for me, I expect.
In loving memory of my grandmother, Ida Mae Bechstein Roe, 1923-2014