Mary Jane Jeffers was 50 years old when I was born, and I laugh at myself now, to think that in my view she was always an old woman. Pity my grandchildren who will see me for the first time when I’m officially a senior citizen! I hope that they will see in me what I saw in my grandmother: namely, age and wisdom blended together.
My grandmother’s figure was tall and stately; her features, pleasant and good-looking; her complexion, silky brown and smooth; her voice, soothing when she talked and when she sang; and her presence meant the world to me. I cannot imagine my early life without my grandmother—my mother’s role was closer to that of a big sister.
My grandmother’s greatest contribution to my life was her genuine faith in me. She single handedly boosted my sense of self-worth more than any other. She expressed her love in a thousand different ways. She helped me learn to read; she taught me songs to sing; she explained the facts of life; she predicted a decent future for me, way more comfortable than working in the fields like she did. She talked proudly about me, sometimes referring to me as a gift from God, after she found out that my name means ‘gift’ in the Greek language.
Her Love and Wisdom
What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance . . . unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort . . . And, most importantly, cookies. ~Rudy Giuliani
My grandmother had three daughters, one of whom was more difficult than the other two; and she seemed to show preference for the troublemaker. The other family members (including me when I became an adult) thought that her kindness to my undeserving aunt was her only sin. When I asked her about her obvious preference, she responded with her own question: “If you have three children playing on the top of a hill, and one is always running toward the cliff, which one will you keep closest to you?” That was a sermon on parenting and on life in general.
The said aunt died when I was abroad. I called to ask my grandmother how the death of her favorite daughter affected her. She replied, “I am at peace. If I hadn’t given her all the love I had to give, I would be miserable now.” This incident is proof for me that my grandmother was not only a wise woman, but a wise saint. I am not the only person who saw in her a character profile of age and wisdom. I met someone who grew up in the same church I did. He was a theology major doing post graduate studies in wisdom literature. His model of applied wisdom, he told me, was my grandmother.
Her Wise Sayings
These are statements I heard my grandmother say repeatedly, not always in perfect grammar. If I discover that they have other sources besides her wisdom, I will gladly give credit.
- The greedy person is not the one who refuses to give, but the one who begs.
- The better woman is not the one who never made a mess, but the one who cleans the mess she makes.
- If you want something done quickly, do it yourself. If you want it done well, pay somebody to do it. (I’ve read several versions of this one).
- If we could afford to eat rich foods, we wouldn’t be this healthy.
Excerpts from Her Eulogy
My grandmother’s life was celebrated on Mothers Day 1987. Her eulogy was written and presented by a member of her church who was also a family friend and a respectful admirer. Here are some excerpts.
- “A devoted mother, a loving grandmother, a caring great grandmother, a benevolent and dedicated and faithful Christian, a friend of all . . .
- “She lived during the days of World War I, the great depression of the 1930s and the days of World War II. . . She experienced the hardship that life offered, but because of the spirit of sacrifice and devotion which marked her whole life, she faced the difficulties and raised her children with great determination. . .
- “She served this church faithfully. Her views on controversial matters were often sought and frankly given and this was done in love and with respect.
- “When there was work to be done she was usually one of the first to volunteer. When others said it was too heavy, she would say “Let us lift.”
- “In her latest years she became very ill but she bore her suffering with great fortitude. . . In fact, visitors to her bedside discovered that she was the one who gave rather than receive words of comfort and consolation. . .
- “May all of us who were touched by her life continue to admire and be inspired by the greatness, the meekness and the simplicity of her life and to follow her example.”
Now that I am a grandmother, I pray for my grandchildren to see in me the life-empowering virtues that I saw in my grandmother.
- Unconditional love for her children and grandchildren;
- Self-respect and respect for others;
- Wisdom in decision-making and in her interaction with others;
- Contentment with life’s successes in whatever measure we receive them;
- Unswerving faith in God.
I can still hear her prayer for her grandchildren that her grandsons be as “as plants grown up in their youth” and her granddaughters as “as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace.” She was quoting from Psalm 144:12 (KJV). I also want my grandchildren to remember my prayers on their behalf.