There are lots of stories about people who overcame some bad things in life but the one that I know best is the story of my grandmother. When grandma was born in 1905 her father was in charge of running a logging camp. Her mother took care of all of the cooking for the camp as well as taking care of her own family. Grandma loved school but, when she was still in High School, her father died. Her mother had to take over the day to day business of the logging camp management and that meant that grandma, as the oldest child, had to quit school and take over the cooking and looking after her younger brothers and sisters. Grandma eventually found her way back to school and, when in her 80’s, grandma dressed in a cap and gown and proudly marched up to get her diploma. Every one of her kids and most of her grandkids were there to cheer her on.
Grandma got married and had children. She lost her youngest daughter as a baby and then, when grandma was 94, she lost her oldest daughter who was my mother. In between, grandma and grandpa made a modest living until grandpa died when grandma was 61. In order to pay the bills grandma worked fulltime as a housekeeper at the local hospital. Eventually she worked her way up to be a nurses aide but not before she lead a difficult fight to get the housecleaning workers organized into a union. Grandma was in her 70’s when she retired from fulltime work at the hospital but she continued doing volunteer work there for another 20 years because she just liked helping people.
Grandma got a little slower with age but she was still very active and mentally sharp into her late 90’s. She collected family stories and pictures and put them into a family history. When I would visit her she would tell me wonderful stories about how life was lived long ago and the interesting characters who were my ancestors. Unfortunately, all of that came to a sudden end when grandma had a stroke at age 98. The stroke caused grandma to lose her ability to walk and to talk and even to swallow. After being so active and helpful she ended up bedridden, with a feeding tube, and only able to make sounds that couldn’t be understood as words. But grandma was still there inside of that broken body and people say that her face lit up with joy when her many friends threw her a 100th birthday party. Grandma had another stroke a few months later and was finally released from her earthly prison.
I read somewhere recently that life can only promise us pain so it’s up to us to create the joy. When I think about that I’m reminded of grandma. She endured what life threw at her and still managed to thrive and to be someone that made people feel good. The Bible also tells us that we are certain to have suffering in our lives. And, unfortunately, good people sometimes suffer more than bad people because life is not fair. But the Bible also tells us that we can take joy and comfort in a life lived in Jesus. And we can take joy and comfort in knowing that there is a better world after this one. I know that grandma believed that. And I think that’s what got her through the last year and a half of her life.