A Letter to little Mary Lou concerning your grandmother, your namesake
I hope I am alive and well by the time you are old enough to read this letter…in fact I hope I am alive and well when you graduate from college and marry your husband. However, I have lived long enough to know that life can be short and woodcutting is a dangerous business. I have already crawled away from two nasty car accidents and survived several close calls in the woods, so while I hope to continue to do so or better, avoid them altogether, life can be tenuous.
So I have taken in hand to write this letter to inform you of certain facts concerning your grandmother, Mary Lou, that your dad and uncles and aunts were to young to remember.
Firstly, your grandmother was the most godly person I ever knew. I don’t say that in the way of sentimentality, but simply because it is a fact. And she was by nature without guile, a very unusual and endearing trait. We both gave our hearts to the Lord on the same day, after which I went thru many periods of backsliding. I never knew your grandmother to backslide, and I have never known another person like that to this day. I wanted to continue playing at cowboying. I wanted to go into rodeo and try saddle bronc riding at the age of 35. I also wanted to go into northern Mexico and cowboy with the Charros and learn their tricks. Your Grandmother would have none of it. She with her typical Scotch/German frankness took the bible in a frank and whole hearted manner, and thought that since the church in our area had failed we should find another and at least pursue the mission field, which she felt was the heart of the Gospel. While it turned out we were not called to missions, she was on target in her general direction, at least in her commitment to actually follow the Bible, not just reading it.
She in no way ruled me. She just asked the right questions in the most gentle and unassuming way and then waited and prayed. While she threw a few pots and pans at me before we became Christians, we never had a serious argument after. Though I no doubt frustrated her innumerable times. She never did anything behind my back, In fact an old friend of the family, Sheila Welvaert told me that when groups of women got together to vent over their husbands, Mary never vented and couldn’t be prodded to say anything behind my back. I like that in a lady.
And that girl could pray. And I almost hate to write this because it sounds contrived or preachy, but I am telling you, she actually enjoyed praying, something I have never really got a hold of. She got up early every morning and prayed and read the Word and then after reading stories to the kids at night, she prayed again before she went to bed. I hope you don’t think I’m laying it on too thick, it s just how she was. However, she was never a stern or cold hearted person in the least. She was by nature gentle and meek, and in fact would not defend herself when another was attacking or belittling her. However, if someone was attacking a child or another woman, she became like a young lioness and was totally fearless of the consequences.
Example; in Grand Rapids, the pimps (I’ll let your mother explain this to you) would bring their girls into our neighborhood to beat them if they were unhappy with them. I was away at work all night and this usually happened at about 2 or 3 in the morning. Next door there lived a 200 lb. weight lifter and on the other side a man who had served in the armed forces in Viet Nam. Neither of them came out of their houses to aid the women. Your 100 lb. grandmother (she was about 35 then) though, came racing out of her house and pounded her hand on the hoods of their cars and said things like, “You stop that!”. The pimps, totally flabbergasted and amazed, left and eventually quit bringing the girls into our neighborhood. I found out about this from the neighbor men who were concerned for her safety. When I asked her about how safe she thought it was, she thought a minute and said, “You’ll have to buy me a gun.” That little gal was ready to shoot it out it with the pimps rather than let them beat their girls in the neighborhood at night.
The only other thing that would turn this lamblike creature into a protective lioness, was if anybody came around and tried to say anything bad about me, your grandfather. I always rather liked that about her. It didn’t matter who it was, she would turn on her own family if need be. She even literally threw at least one person out of the house for defaming me, after informing them,” he is the most honest man I know, and don’t even think about coming back into this house until you apologize.” That person took off running and when they did come back, they were apologizing.
I now have to tell you about your grandmothers’ death, which was a very difficult time for me and your father, uncles and aunts. And even to this time some 20 years later, it is painful to me. Yet I am also proud to tell you she faced death with courage and never succumbed to fear. She was courageous first because of her disciplined faith in the Scriptures. She was at peace later, because her heavenly Father simply took away all fear and worry. You could feel the peace when you entered her room even when she was in a coma. During that time, tears could come into her eyes over leaving her babies, but she no longer feared death. It was not the kind of courage that I might have summoned up under a similar situation, a hardness to circumstance or devil may care attitude. It was a gentle courage, that rested in her faith in the Lord. It reminded me of one of her favorite scriptures, “perfect love casteth out all fear.” 1 John 4:18
A couple of things about her death your father might not know or remember. One, shortly after she was diagnosed with cancer, I asked the Lord to teach me how to pray about her situation. After two weeks I felt led to ask God for 3 years. Keep in mind my doctor friends told me it would be a miracle if she lasted 6 months. The cancer had invaded every part of her body and it was a very aggressive form of melanoma.
A year later she got around to asking me how much time I had prayed for and I, somewhat embarrassed, told her three years. “Three years!” , she said, “couldn’t you have done a little better than that?”. Later we both laughed out loud over that. After her death, the death certificate said that she died 3 years after the onset of the disease. The sun didn’t shine for at least 19 days after death, and that period of extended sunless days set a new record for the Grand Rapids area. I believe the Sun itself or nature dared not show their glory for that period of time in deference to your grandmothers death, and were in mourning by her heavenly Fathers command.
Oh, one other thing. Your grandmother loved people and was quite an outgoing evangelist, again, quite fearless and friendly to all. For awhile she had a ministry at an abortion clinic trying to minister to women going in to abort their babies. As you can imagine this was a very tense and difficult procedure and yet I was told again and again that no one did it in a less condemning and more understanding way, and because of this several babies were born that would not have been, and several of the mothers received Christ as their savior.
Well, I guess there is a lot more I could say, but this letter is already long. But what else do you need to know? She was a gentle lamb who could turn into a lion when wrong was being done and would back down for no one. And yet the majority of the time she was just a meek and loving mother who was totally infatuated with her babies and a very tolerant and loving wife. She was very sensitive and cried easily. She cried at Bach and Handel and Strauss and in almost every church service during the hymns. And she was always bringing home stray dogs, particularly old females, but your father can tell you all that. Again, I have no intention of dying right away and so far I have proven fairly hard to kill but the possibility of you going through life with out knowing some important things about your lovely grandmother leaves me dismayed.
Sola Dei Gloria, much love,