Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out of for us. (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)
This week my grandmother passed away quietly at 101 years of age. Here is a dedication written in her memory. She was truly an inspiration of perseverance.
Before women had the right to vote,
Before penicillin was discovered
Before annual income taxes
Before Miss America pageants
Back when the Dow Jones was below 100 and King George was on the throne in England-
Way back, before all that—my Grandma Vicki was born in her parents’ home on their farm near Hector, MN.
Her maternal grandparents lived their whole lives in Helsinger, Denmark- I grew up living next door to my grandma, so it is somewhat difficult to imagine living halfway around the world from your grandparents, no overseas phone, postal mail was slow, and there was definitely not no skyping, no email.
Her paternal grandparents, Swan and Albertina came from Lindberg, Sweden. Their last name in Sweden had been, “Swenson” but changed it to Barry after getting to the U.S. Their grandfather’s name was Eric Berg. They took the “Berg” and changed it to “Barry”, that’s the story anyway, but I’m not seeing it?
Grandma’s mother, Minnie wanted to name her “Ellen” but Uncle Leonard said it should be “Victoria Cecilia” so that’s what it was. I don’t think my parents would have allowed Uncle Rolly or Jandt to name me.
Growing up grandma loved paperback novels, movies, esp. Shirley Temple. She loved reading “Gone With the Wind,” which was published in 1936. To her it would have been a popular bestseller, I read it last summer, to me it was a classic.
She attended a one-room country school and her favorite classes were math and spelling. She aspired to be a bookkeeper, but that wasn’t how it worked out, I guess it just wasn’t in the cards!
Grandma said her hardest times were after her mother died. She was only 16 years old, but she related the story very clearly. She remembered going into the hospital that morning. She stood, frozen in the doorway, looking in, her mother so small lying in that hospital bed with her tiny size 4 shoes on placed on the rug next the bed. “Go on in girl”, her father bade her, so she did, and she sat next to her unconscious mother for about an hour before Minnie passed.
After her mother died, grandma worked cleaning for Aunt Luella, just across the gravel road from her own house. Grandma said those were the toughest times. She worked all day and told of how she carried mattresses from the upstairs, to the outside to air them and haul them back up. She made them supper and helped clean up then went home and fed and cleaned up after her father and brother. The days were long, the work was hard and the pay was small.
Grandma was only 17 when she started to date grandpa. Of Grandpa Ray she said, “He was tall, good looking and slender, and he was a good dancer.” Six months later they decided to get married. She went to tell her father, Oscar, and of that she reported, “My dad flipped.” Anyway, on January 30th, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, drought and dust storms they were married. Grandma wore a “figured” dress and Aunt Edith served a chicken dinner that was “real good.”
Grandpa and Grandma had $1.00 when they got married and that was spent the next day at the Doctors to treat a boil on Grandpa’s wrist. Grandma said there were many times they had less then a dollar, but maybe they didn’t have a cable bill, phone bill, or even an electric bill. But they probably did have a kerosene bill, or coal bill.
They may not have had electricity or indoor plumbing or television, but what they did get was babies!
My mother was born at home, while both grandpa Bob and Grandpa Oscar waited in the kitchen. The attending physician commented to Grandma that that was unusual, but first born are special.
When Myrna was born, Dr. Vesley was supposed to come, but he had to go pick up his girl friend at the train station instead.
Marcia was born in the Wahoo hospital in the same room where Grandma Minnie had died years earlier. Grandma said that gave her such a strange feeling.
As the years passed Grandma would have read the original newspaper headlines to news stories like:
Panic at the radio premier of Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds
Lindbergh baby kidnapped
King Edward abdicates the throne
Home runs by Babe Ruth and Lou Gering
Grandma experienced the dust bowl, the depression, World wars, cold wars and gasoline wars; Kennedy shot, Nixon Resigns, an actor became president, these were current events for her and in the history books for my children.
There were birth announcements, weddings, baptisms, traveling, card clubs, and family reunions. 101 years of life—long life—full of experiences, lessons, challenges and joys, but for me I see the greatest lesson to be learned—perseverance.
James 5:11 says: As you know we consider blessed those who have persevered, you have heard of Job’s perseverance and you have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
So when I remember grandma, I will be reminded of perseverance, every morning for over a hundred years, each and every day grandma faced whatever that day brought only to get up and do it again the next day. Remembering also that we do not persevere by our own power, but God gives us the strength and courage to face and persevere each day.
So when life gets tough or days seem hard, I just remember grandma’s God-given perseverance and I know that I can persevere too.