A Strong, Courageous Woman
A week ago this past Thursday my dear grandma, Alice Foote Shelford, the mother of my father, passed from this earth to heavenly glory after 96 long and blessed years of life. Seeing how she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior at the age of 12, the majority of her days were spent following and serving Him. Praise the Lord!
As for her death, Grandma had been having greater breathing problems the last couple of years or so, and on Thursday, August 10, she suffered a major heart attack. The doctors said there was nothing they could do for her, so Grandma wanted to go home as that is where she loved to be. The day after she got home, on Thursday, August 17, she passed away which was a blessing seeing how she really suffered with pain and breathing the night before.
So the first two words that come to mind when I think of my grandma are strong (determined) and courageous (not afraid). Not only did she live by herself out in the country in her old farmhouse until the day she died, but she also drove her car and riding lawn mower into her early 90’s. On top of that, she would even go out on her roof to clean her windows after 90 years! She was determined to have a clean house, and obviously, she was not afraid to do whatever it took to make it happen. 🙂 Praise the Lord, God blessed her with relatively good health seeing how she did not have many of the aches, pains, and other health problems that a lot of older people have.
An Honorable, Caring Woman
Now I have to confess that I did not think Grandma’s death would hit me very hard seeing how I lived far away from her all my life. My family would drive up from Michigan to upstate New York to visit her and my grandpa every Christmas for the first 17 years of my life, but after that, every year varied as to when I’d see her again seeing how we moved to Florida my senior year in high school, making the distance even greater and Christmases back at her home even more unlikely.
After my grandpa passed away in 2003, however, Grandma started flying down to Florida with her daughter, my Aunt Bonnie, to spend Christmases at my parents’ home. That lasted almost 10 years, from 2004 to 2013. It was a blessing having her, but it was hard to see her miss her home so much while she was with us.
Sadly, the last time I saw Grandma though was almost two years ago in October 2015 when my husband and I traveled to New York for a friend’s wedding. We had actually planned to visit her this Labor Day weekend so that she could meet our 18-month-old daughter she had yet to meet, but God obviously had other plans.
At Grandma’s funeral last Sunday afternoon at the small, sweet Baptist church she and my grandpa helped start in Dundee back in 1951, I cried the most I had since I heard of her death. I was reminded of her faithfulness to the Lord and her impact on others, even helping lead a woman to the Lord in her later years. The church was pretty much packed too with around 180 people in attendance, which is quite a testimony for her impact and the honorable woman that she was to both young and old. I later even heard that her family doctor so sweetly called her “Mom,” stating she was the dearest woman he had ever met!
At her burial on Monday morning, which was just a private gathering for family, I cried even more knowing she was never coming back, and life would never be the same as her home was the center for our extended family meeting together. It was also the one place on earth I always felt like was really “home” because of its warm, old-fashioned, country ambience and beautiful setting with some of the most spectacular views of the amazing Finger Lakes countryside. Her home setting is partly why I increasingly long to move to the peace and natural beauty of the country.
So what I have come to realize is that no matter how big or small a part my grandma played in my life, she still played a significant, precious part. Not only did she rear up a strong Christian man to be my father, but she also loved me through the years by . . .
- remembering my birthday every year and sending me a card and gift;
- making me dresses as a child, cross-stitched Christmas ornaments quite often, a big quilt for my bed, and a hand-knit Christmas stocking for me and then later for my husband and two children in her last years;
- sending me and my siblings yummy Valentine cookies when we were kids;
- writing me letters;
- traveling to Michigan sometimes during the summers to visit us;
- making her home a pretty, clean, and comforting place to visit every Christmas and having loads of homemade cookies awaiting for us (I always cherished my visits there!);
- graciously hosting Christmas holiday family get-togethers which I loved;
- attending my wedding at the age of 89;
- standing at her living room window or outdoors and tearfully waving good-bye to us after every visit (this always broke my heart);
- and more I’m sure!
A Hard-Working, Kind Woman
As you can probably imagine, having lived into her 90’s, she was pretty much the only one of her generation left since all of her friends and family had passed away. My grandpa had even passed away in October 2003, leaving her alone for almost 14 years. I cannot imagine how lonely she must have felt, but Grandma was not one to sit around and feel sorry for herself as she kept a flower and vegetable garden as long as she could, kept a meticulously clean home, did Soduko puzzles and complex jigsaw puzzles, read an abundance of different magazines, went on different outings with her daughter Bonnie or friends, and even hosted a prayer meeting at her home every Tuesday night up until her death.
Even though Grandma was more of a quiet, reserved woman, I am very blessed to have had her as my grandma as she was a hard-working, kind woman who faithfully served and loved her God, family, and church. I am sure too she prayed many prayers for me throughout my life, and for that, I am forever grateful. Only eternity will tell how God used them to shape me and pour out His grace on my life.
After all, prayer powerfully changes things, and my grandma’s prayers helped change my mom, who was unsaved when she married my dad, a backslidden Christian at the time. Seeing how my mom made no pretense of being a Christian when she married my dad, my grandma could have easily been upset and condemned and snubbed her, but instead, Grandma brought her hurting heart for her son and his bride to God. Miraculously then, within less than a year of their marriage, my dad decided to return to the Lord and a Bible-believing church, and shortly thereafter, my mom received Jesus Christ as her Savior. Therefore, my mom always sings my grandma praises and says that she is her hero because she prayed for and loved my mom to Jesus. Now for that I am super grateful!! Praise the Lord!
Distant but Close
As I think back over my relationship with my grandma through the years, one of my big bonds with her, as it was with other distant family members, probably came through my letters that I wrote her since I was a child.
I am very thankful to God for giving me a passion for writing and blessing others through sharing my life with them because I’ve seen God use it in mighty ways to draw me into better relationships with people and sometimes with people I thought a good relationship was not even possible. Opening up your heart after all makes it easier for others to see you have a heart for them.
At Grandma’s funeral and burial last weekend, I am very thankful too for a couple ladies from her church, who spent a lot of time with her in her last years, sharing with me how much my grandma appreciated my letters, cards, and my children’s pictures. They’d say how she’d proudly show and repeatedly go over them when they’d visit (she was losing her short-term memory). I was so blessed to hear this as I did not hear back much from Grandma during these years, so it was comforting to know how much she enjoyed them.
Convicting & Comforting Reminders
I love the Bible verse, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” (Eccl. 7:2). I love it because it is so true for at funerals we are forced to face death and be reminded of the brevity of life. Hopefully, we are also convicted by the Holy Spirit and forced to evaluate our lives in light of eternity. We need to ask ourselves whether we are fully pleasing God and how we should change in order to better glorify Him since we all will one day stand accountable before Him for our lives. For as Hebrews 9:27 states: “People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”
So the first of my two take-away reminders from my grandma’s life and death is that the only lasting, worthwhile thing you can leave when you die is your spiritual legacy of faith in God–your character and your love for and service to God and others. Summed up, that means your efforts and impact in glorifying God in everything since that is what we were made for. As the Bible says, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). These things alone will remain in people’s hearts and make an eternal difference for God in our evil world.
This fact stood out to me because my grandma’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were given the opportunity to take pretty much any of her possessions last weekend as we all gathered together, but honestly, most of her things were old, not our style, or not needed, so most of her stuff will probably be thrown out, sold, or given away to someone else.
It is sad to think about because they were important to her, but what is most important to her and to us though is her noble, godly legacy. And come to think of it, I think Grandma knew in part she left a godly legacy because she commented to her pastor’s wife that her greatest joy was that all of her children and grandchildren were walking with the Lord Jesus. Amen!
Secondly, at her burial on Monday, her pastor shared from Psalm 121 and pointed out verse 8 especially which states: “The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” He stressed that the “forevermore” means God is still watching over Grandma as He did throughout her blessed journey on earth of walking with and trusting and obeying Him. That is comforting, not only in regards to Grandma, but also in regards to those of us left behind and walking with the Lord still–that in the midst of our crazy, busy lives, we are still under the watchful care of God Himself! Isn’t it so awesome that we have such a sweet, loving, almighty God who cares so much about us personally?!
Something that goes well with this thought of God’s watchful care too is the hymn Heavenly Sunlight, one of the three songs sung at Grandma’s funeral on Sunday. I love the first stanza, “Walking in sunlight all of my journey, over the mountains, through the deep vale; Jesus has said, ‘I’ll never forsake thee,’ promise divine that never can fail.” The thought of His tender care that will never leave us truly gives us much hope, peace, and joy (our heaven on earth), and I think my grandma must have known that promise of God well as strong, courageous, and content as she was.
In closing, as you continue your own life journey, may my grandma’s life be an inspiration to you to leave a noble, godly legacy, which never gets old, goes out of style, or fades away. And lastly, be satisfied with God because He has whole-heartedly promised, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). God bless you and thank you for letting me share my heart with you today about my grandma, one of God’s precious saints and jewels in heaven today.
P.S. Grandma, I miss you and can’t wait to see you in heaven one day! Thanks for being the wonderful matriarch of our family that you were.