Cloud of Witnesses -great grandmothers
My great grandmothers were as different as black and white, hot and cold, day and night. One was tall and bony, the other short and fluffy. One had a soft face and sweet smile, the other a face of chiseled stone. Their personalities matched their stature: one stern and hard, the other tender and sweet. One thing they shared in common was my mom and me–the firstborn grand and great granddaughters. (Psalm 123:3) Granny, also called O’Miss, the less affectionate one, renamed me at birth. She thought my name was ugly and she REFUSED to say it! I became “Patsy.” It never bothered me because in my ignorance I thought it was a term of endearment. Grandmamma Hardy, with her hugs and smiles, was always looking out for me: She put a piece of her “to die for” chocolate pie up for me before all the grown ups could eat it all! These two very different personalities loved me in their own unique style. I learned from them, how I wanted to grow old: yep, one a bit cantankerous, the other easy going and gracious. Granny lived into her 90’s and Grandmamma Hardy was 81 when she sat down in the “cloud”. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
I am uncertain of Granny’s salvation. Hard to admit but the truth. Granny told the story (it is hilarious) of her “salvation experience,” and it lacks true conviction and reflected an absence of sincerity of heart. (Luke 6:45) It was more a going through the motions, as children often do to please those around them. She told me she swore that day she would never “walk the aisle again” and she told me emphatically she had not! This woman became a widow during the depression, lost two children (one to a car accident and the other to brain cancer) and a infant grandson, and then lived with a son who experienced a brain tumor. She reminded me of a tall Southern pine in a thunderstorm–resilient. (Proverbs 21:2) She was all business. I never saw her leave her always immaculate house. The yard was a fairy land of blooms and color in the spring from daffodils, azaleas, camellias, roses, and this prickly plant she called “thrift.” We had wonderful Easter egg hunts in the yard. Yes, her life was hard and filled with hurt and it seemed to make her a bit bitter not better. It did not matter to me as a child, it was “just the way she was”. My greatest gift to her was my son, her first great, great grandchild, was born on her birthday. Her greatest gift to me was my Mamma Mae, you have already met. (see April 11th post)
Grandmamma Hardy’s faith was evident. It was seen and heard in the very atmosphere of her home; a warm place of hospitality, kindness, toil, and love. She had an aura of gentility. They lived in an old farmhouse with fireplaces in nearly every room, across the road from the church, both built by her husband’s grandfather, the Rev W.S. Hardy. This church continues to serve the family and community to this day as a beacon of God’s grace in rural Alabama. Her youngest grandson (6th generation) serves on the board of trustees of Sardis Methodist Church and continues to maintain the Hardy Homeplace. (To see the farm go to minutes 16:32-20:28 of the video.Simply Southern, Episode 411) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9j8kvpT5Tbs)
Grandmamma Hardy was pregnant with her last child when her first granddaughter (my mom) and first grandson were born. Nine children, birthed across more than twenty years, raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) and educated to be productive members of society through hard work and classical schooling: nursing, education, United States Postal Service, farming, bookkeeping, business, and various other pursuits. (II Thessalonians 3:10, I Corinthians 12:7)) One of them was my maternal grandfather, Clarence, affectionately called “Brother”. Grandmamma also lost a child early in life. Is there any greater grief?
Nineteen grandchildren adored her. And 30+ great grands like me she knew by name. (Psalm 127:3-5) She knew loss, illness, death, hardship, and physical pain. I never heard a word of complaint come from her lips! (Proverbs 16:24) Not even when more people than you could count were in her kitchen in the way as she tried to put lunch on the table and stepping on her twisted toes! (Galatians 5:22-23)
I was married on Grandmamma and Granddaddy Hardy’s anniversary as a way to honor them in 1973. They were married more than 50 years when separated by death in 1968. A testimony of faithfulness. Her remaining children would provide excellent care for her following the death of Granddaddy Hardy: a living testimony of family devotion. (John 19:25-29)
We can learn much from observing the lives of those who have gone before us. We can discern how we do and do not want to live our lives. (II Timothy 1:5, 3:14-17) I am thankful God looks at the heart (I Samuel 16:7) and understands the pain of a mother’s heart and He reaches past our walls and defenses. It is not for me to judge the eternity of another. I am to only look at the fruit of a life and see if the fruit is good or bad. (Matthew 7:15-20) The fruit of these two is as sweet as a Chilton County peach for I know they loved me! (Matthew 19:14) I was always welcomed with open arms into their homes.
Great grandmothers in the “cloud” among the witnesses. Neither of these souls would “hoop and holler” for me. Just not their style. One would watch with arms crossed and a “humph”; the other would softly clap and smile. Their lives were hard and what we consider important today would have been sheer frivolity in their world. Survival was a daily struggle. This struggle I have never known. So to these two who worked hard, did what was necessary, did without, and persevered in a world I know nothing about, I honor you for the impact you had in my young life. You laid stones of perseverance, tenacity, and quiet grace.
I love you both! Not sure I ever said those words. They were words your hearts longed to hear. I know this because I am now a grandmother to two special girls. (I John 3:18) For the packages addressed to “Patsy” and hidden pieces of pie, THANK YOU! These are sweet, tender memories proving beyond any doubt, I was loved by you!
A Grandmother’s Prayer, by Gina Marie Hayes
Treading on stones unseen,
Yvonne (the ugly name) Virginia Hess Jones
Daughter of Mary Jo Hardy & Victor Edwin Hess
Granddaughter of Clarence Hardy & Nellie Mae McLeod H. Manderson
Great Granddaughter of Ethel & Wm Hardy Martha Jane Whisenhunt McLeod
Dedicated to all those who have gone before me and prayed for me even before I was born. Your prayers were heard!