As I clicked through pictures I’ve scanned, I was pleasantly surprised that we actually had Christmas photos from several different years, but then I saw this and my heart filled to overflowing. I don’t often get emotionally reminiscent about people who have died … I tend to prefer remembering and celebrating the amazing lives they led, but I started to cry when I saw a very casual photograph of me with Grandma.
Grandma Greenwood was the epitome of gentle love. It was readily apparent in everything she did that there were two important things in her life. She loved Jesus and she loved her family. Grandma had a big family to love. She had eight children, seven of whom lived to adulthood. They gave her twenty-three grandchildren and she intended to love each one of us with everything she had.
For Grandma, love was more important than anything else. She gave up a great deal of her education to care for her sisters when her mother became ill … but the woman was so brilliant, she learned Greek while Grandpa was going through seminary to help him study. Every cookie she baked, every meal she put on the table was filled with her love. Grandma loved … simply and purely. If you had asked me as a child to define what a grandmother was … it would have been that one word – love.
Most of her grandchildren lived in Clarinda and were in and out of her house on a regular basis. We lived further away and I missed that easy access to her, envying my cousins as they spoke of stopping by after school or, in the summertime, stopping by just to say hello. Some of them moved in with my grandparents when they were in college, others when they needed to escape the world for a few weeks. Grandma accepted all of us, no matter what and loved us unconditionally.
There were two things about Grandma Greenwood that seemed so ridiculous to me when I was young, but now that I’m older, I find that they complete the definition of this wonderful woman. Grandma didn’t want any books in the house that included swear words … consequently, there were a lot of Readers Digest Condensed books on her shelves. We might have thought she was a little over the top, but we respected that.
Grandma was a pacifist … to the extreme. She had an organ in her living room – she was a wonderful musician and encouraged all of us. One afternoon, while she was doing something in the kitchen, I turned on the organ and began to play. I was flipping through the hymnal and began playing the next hymn, when all of a sudden she was beside me. She put her hand on top of mine and said, “We don’t play those types of songs in this house.” I stopped, she patted my shoulder and went back to the kitchen. I was playing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Grandma wasn’t okay with Augustine’s ‘Just War’ interpretation. She knew that Jesus had everything in control and we didn’t have to fight about it. I still chuckle at that insight into my grandmother.
I’m grateful to have this photograph. We didn’t often spend Christmas with my grandparents because of all of the church activities and the travel involved. This is a treasure. Carol would have been a toddler and Mom would have been pregnant with Jamie. I still remember that blue dress, she wore it for years. She was soft and loving. No matter which grandchild was in her presence, they received her attention and love. I always knew how important I was to this woman and yet, I also knew how important all of her grandchildren were to her. She spoke of every one of them at every opportunity.
A life well-lived is one whose definition is love. That was my grandmother. Love.