Grandmother’s Angels

by H Jerome Chapman

I  guess it is a great experience in life to meet just one person who exhibits what we might call “God Like” qualities. Some would argue as to how those attributes would be defined and verified for an individual. Some would even argue the existence of either: God or “God Like” qualities.

But, I think that some of us have been so blessed as to come into contact with an individual that possessed something that made them different. There was something that you experienced by being in their presence and then could not rightly explain to someone else in pure worldly terms. More than “nice”. Bigger than “good”. Something that made you feel you were in the presence of goodness even while doing the most mundane of things. A sense of spirituality that is apparent even to the usually non- spiritual . Something that made you glad you were there and when you left, made you want to come back as soon as possible. You felt better when you left them than when you came.

Yes, one such person in a lifetime would be as much as one person could ever hope for or expect. But, I can say that I have had several. I’m sorry if you have had none.

I grew up in close relationships with both sets of my grandparents. A rarity today with the mobile nature of our society and the fact that so many people leave home for college, get a job a thousand miles away, get married and settle down miles from their parents. As a result, their kids only know about, but do not know, their grandparents.

Both my grandmothers grew up in the rural Middle Georgia and their families were not families of wealth. In fact, they lived on meager means, hardly any income in terms of money, and were very self-sufficient. They worked and worked ……hard. They grew it, picked it, canned it, and preserved it the best way they could without refrigeration or electricity in the early years. If they had anything left, they took it to the market and converted it to cash.

My Mother’s mother had a tomato patch every year that was hers to sell or otherwise use. That was her “Christmas Money”. They made clothes on a foot pedal powered Singer sewing machine. They made pies and cobbler from blackberries and muscadines. Jelly from plums, pears and apples. And, on top of everything else, they were magicians!

There would be a chicken walking around in the yard at 9:00 AM. By 12:00 that chicken had been turned into fried drumsticks, some dumplings, and gravy and there was a feast of regal proportions awaiting! Some white flour, lard, eggs, yeast and milk and a special wooden platter and there would be plate of melt in your mouth biscuits.

Stick a nail in your foot and Grandma became Nurse Betty. Secret potions were concocted and such things as kerosene, camphor, alum, and iodine were applied.

Only if a red streak was running up your leg the next day, indicating that you may have blood poisoning, did you get outside medical attention. Castor oil was always on hand for a “Spring Cleaning.” .

You did not come in to their house, or exit, without a hug and a kiss from Grandmamma. And they passed on to you words to live by. “Nothing beats a can’t like a try,” was one example.

I had two great ones. I remember them with great fondness and with the highest regards.

My father’s mother was about 5’ tall. I never measured her but I can’t imagine her being any taller and I might be exaggerating an inch or two. She was somewhat rotund, to put it gently.

She had 8 children and a bunch of grandkids. She invented the “Sackman” to help keep rowdy grandkids in line. This may have been something that she learned as a kid from her parents but her mother died when she was small and she never remembered her own mother. It was not until after her death that a family picture was found that supposedly contained a picture of her mother.

If the kids were misbehaving, she would come in and tell everyone that the Sackman was coming to get them if they did not straighten out. If they persisted in their unacceptable behavior, a creature would appear at the window, scratching on the screen wire and moaning and making scary noises, and it was wearing a brown paper sack over its head with eyes and a mouth cut out. It was usually wearing a big overcoat to complete the disguise. This creature was about 5’ tall and somewhat rotund. This would likely not be approved in today’s child rearing environment, but it worked and I can’t say there were any adverse long term effects.

No one ever got a spanking but I did get slapped through the screen wire on the door once when I was mimicking my screaming cousin who had strep throat and my grandmother was having to swab some medicine on the affected area. Two screaming kids was one too many! That literally left a lasting impression!

She was born in 1899. November 3, 1899. She would be 115+ today. Her mother was a Tabor and her father was a Hudson.

For many years, to wash clothes she would fill up the iron wash pot in the yard with water, build a fire around it and when the water was about boiling, she would put the clothes and lye soap in and start washing with a big wooden wash paddle. Then they were hung on the clothes line and dried by sun and wind.

Irons (made of flat iron, hence the name) would be heated on the wood stove or the fireplace and all the clothes would be pressed, even the almost worn out ones. Some things like milk were kept in the well or the spring across the road until the “icebox” came along. If you were close enough, you could get ice from the ice truck that came around and blew his horn or rang his bell. Electricity came to these homes about 1946 and 1947. They later moved to the city, never to return to their rural life.

Naomi was a Christian lady. Not one who just talked Christianity but one who lived it every day In fact, I would say that if “saints” exist, she would have to be counted on that list.

She broke her hip and was in the rehab center and my wife and I went by to “cheer her up”. When we walked in the door she said with a chuckle in her voice and a twinkle in her eye, “Well, isn’t this a mess? I have broken everything but my nose and I guess that will be next!”

We were the ones cheered up. “Ain’t God good?” she would say. “Ain’t we got a great God?”

She worked crosswords and Squiggles and about any kind of little word game, crocheted  and read her Bible. I asked her, once, at what point would my kids be old enough that I would not have to worry about them any longer. Her “kids”, by that time, were in their 50’s and 60’s. Without hesitation and without trying to say something cute, she replied, “When mine get that old, I’ll let you know.”

One of her sons gave her a rubber gorilla mask. She often had it by the chair she sat in to read and crochet and work the puzzles she loved. When she would hear the door open she would put that mask on and be sitting there crocheting or working the puzzles and giggling when you walked in. She could be a hoot!

Naomi lived without too much serious illness until the last several months of her life. She lived in her small home that was adjacent to the yard of one daughter and just down the street from another. They saw to her needs every day and came in and took care of the house, clothes, etc. The last several months, they moved her into what had been the living room as it was easier for everyone and was bigger than the bedrooms.

The two sisters came in one morning to do the house cleaning, cleaning up the kitchen, and the usual stuff. They went in and let her know they were busy in the kitchen and would get the house cleaned up before they attended to her personal needs. They commented that the house had gotten into a mess and it would be a few minutes. She replied that that was fine and she wished she had some decent help, a joking remark, so the house would not get in this condition. She had not lost her sense of humor.

It was taking them a little longer than they had planned so one of her daughters went in to check on her and let her know they were about be caught up. She said that was fine but that it really didn’t matter because she was going home in a few minutes. Thinking that she was talking “out of her head” her daughter responded that she was at home.

“That’s not what I’m talking about,” she said. “I’m going home and be with Dave.” (Her deceased husband) The daughter responded that she would be alright and asked why she was talking that way.

She replied, “There were two angels standing at the foot of my bed and they asked me if I was ready to go home. I asked them if my family would be alright and they said yes. I told them I was ready to go, then.” The daughters were both there by then and they told her that she had just seen the two of them in the room and she was just imagining things.

“I am not imagining things. You two were in the kitchen and they were standing at the foot of my bed. I saw them.”

They said “Okay, we’ll be back in a minutes to see about you,” and they returned to the kitchen for a few minutes. When they came back in the room, she was dead.

You can use any line of reasoning you wish. Coincidence, if you choose to believe it. But this woman who had loved God and Jesus her entire life and witnessed to the “Goodness of God” said there were two angels and I’ll have to go with her on the issue because on May 15, 1996 she slipped away with the grace with which she had lived. Her wish to die at home was fulfilled.

Her funeral was a celebration and people were laughing at the stories about her. But at the same time, people who may have been looking for some “sign from God” all their life had one living in their midst for 96 years!

Copyright 2014 SPT

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