90 years of courage

My grandmother is brave.

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Momer, as we call her, will be 90 in September.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized how precious it is to still have the chance to talk to her regularly.  She’s in good health, can sit up to tell me stories after everyone’s gone to bed, and still makes the best banana bread this side of heaven.  And in her heart, mixing with the kindest, most gentle and generous spirit I know, is a courage to take God’s hand and walk where He leads.

Momer was raised in Oxford, mostly by her father and stepmother.  When she turned 18, the war was on and she wanted to help.  So she boarded a bus headed for Biloxi, alone, and shortened her name from Luna Sue to just Sue along the way.  “I figured no one knew me, so I could finally get rid of “Luna” and be called whatever I wanted,” she said. When she arrived, she got a job with Western Union and found a shared apartment with other single ladies.  She just made up her mind to start something new and did.

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Later, living with her mother in Jackson, she met a man 12 years her senior.  They married when she was in her early twenties and she was suddenly the stepmother to his three children – a few of whom were already teenagers.  It was new and different – and she embraced it.  She told me this past fall that she knew her job was just to love them.  They had a wonderful father who would lovingly discipline them, and she was there just to accept and love them.  And she was perfect at it.  My aunt and uncles love her like their own mother.

She never tells these stories, but I’ve heard countless retellings of she and Pa (my grandfather) opening their home to family and friends who just needed a place to be for awhile.  They were the rocks, the people you think of when you don’t know where to go.

When Pa grew weak in his old age, they moved to Biloxi to be near my family.  When he passed away, Momer stayed on at the assisted living complex.  Her life had been devoted to him and her children, and now things were different.  Yet she made new friends.  She started volunteering at a place near the docks for visiting sailors who were far from home.  They all adopted her as their “American grandmother.”  If she ever struggled, which she surely must have, I never knew.  She just seemed to look around at her new situation and find ways to adapt.

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Now, more than a decade later, she’s moved again to another assisted living home just three blocks from my parents.  The move took longer than expected as the home finished construction, and Momer lived among her own boxes for a few weeks waiting to get settled in.  She’s starting over again almost 90.  Yet, she never spoke of being nervous.

I talked to her yesterday, three weeks since she moved in, and asked how things were going.  “Great,” she said. “You know, change comes all the time. It will all be ok, and there’s a lot of new things to do here.”

I told her what an inspiration she is to me and Charlie.  From what I know of her life, she has always met change with a steady gaze – not scared or reluctant, but just accepting what comes next.  I thanked her for setting that example for us, and this is what she told me:

“God calls us to keep moving forward.  We can’t stay the same all the time, but He’s always walking with us so we don’t have to be scared.”

I could say how much I regret my selfish teenage years when, like most people, I had no idea how to appreciate my grandparents.  I had no idea what treasures I would find if I’d just ask them about their lives.  But I know better now, and I’m so grateful for the encouragement I receive from her example.

I hope that if I live to be 90, I am still testifying to God calling me forward in life and asserting that I will go where He leads.

Until we cross over to see Him face to face, we are not done because He is not done.

IMG_7609(My mom, Momer and me with the banana pudding I made while she called out her recipe to me from the kitchen table – one of my all-time favorite memories)

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