In Memory of a Golden Woman This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

January 29, 2013
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I felt the sharp pain of the wooden pews against my aching back, the pinch of my heels on my ankles. I could hear the soft sniffles and sobs around me, the gentle “plop” of tears falling onto the ground and seats. Golden objects shined all around us, but their luster was muffled by the gloom of this day. From the alter my great-uncle James’ voice boomed throughout the church, rolling in gentle, caressing waves over the casket of his mother, our clan’s mother, as he told us all a story of her I won’t soon forget. “When I was a boy,” he said, “And Fran and Tommy were about ten and eleven, I was about eight years old. We were heading up the road to a pond on our bikes, when some older boys came to steal our bikes from us. Tommy and Fran started throwing punches and yelled at me to run home and get mom. So I ran two miles home, and then told my mother that some older boys were trying to steal our bikes and that Tommy and Fran were trying to fight them off. Although she was about seven months pregnant with Bill at the time, she stood up, waddled to the car, and told me to get in.” He paused for a moment with a small smile and continued. “We drove up to the pond and got Tommy and Fran, who had busted lips and black eyes from the fight. Apparently the boys had taken the bikes after all. So we drove into town, and at the store we saw one of the boys who had taken our bikes. We told our mother that was the guy, so she got out of the car, and asked him if he was the one who had taken her sons’ bikes. He said he wouldn’t tell, so she grabbed him by the ear and told him either he was going to show her where those bikes were, or he was going to show the sheriff. You better believe he showed her after that!” The church suddenly erupted into a chorus of chuckles and giggles, all of us picturing this scene and the fright she must have given that boy. It was this moment when I felt a bubbling of admiration for her that had been growing since I had met her only a few years before. At that moment I decided she was that kind of woman I wanted to grow up to be. My great grandmother was strong, kind, gentle, and a good mother, but a fiery spirit too; she spoke her mind and she followed both her morals and her heart. My great grandmother was, in my eyes, a true American lady due to her self –respect and respect for others and for her courage and her drive to continue living even through hard times. This story is of how she has changed and affected me ever since her death a year ago this month.

I have always been a coward when it came to standing up for myself, allowing myself to be hurt and stepped on by others; I have never truly given myself the proper self-respect until recently. However, my grandmother had a different approach. She spoke her mind, had a quick, sharp temper, and was as clever as a fox. My great grandmother respected herself enough to not allow people to walk all over her or her family. But, she was also very tolerant, patiently enduring people’s ignorance when it came to herself, to a certain point of course. However, when her family or loved ones were being pestered or disrespected, her inner mother bear burst forth and consumed whatever unfortunate soul managed to cross her path. I find it funny that I too have this attitude. I will not say anything against someone if they are bothering me, but once my family and friends become involved, I fight like a wild cat to protect their honor and dignity. It makes me glad to know that some of her is in me, even if it is in such a small way. I just wish I could be as strong willed and expressive as she was, though I am also glad that I am as gentle spirited as I am. I easily relate to people when they have problems, and do my best to help them get on their feet. However, my grandmother was the kind of person who would have said something like, “Get up on your feet boy! The world isn’t going to sit around and do everything for you. Your momma isn’t here to clean up after you, so clean yourself up and keep on going.” My great grandmother has shown me how important it is to respect yourself, and to not allow others to walk over you and cause you any more trouble than life already hands us. She has taught me that you can be humble and have self-respect at the same time with dignity.

As a child, I always flowed against the “current”; the media, the social guidelines, and so forth. I saw my fight against conformity and the rest of the “group” by being my own person to whom no one else could relate as my way of being strong and brave. I used to think that by fighting as hard as I could to not be like everyone else I was being courageous because I was risking friends, popularity, acceptance, and everything else children crave from their peers just so I could be different. However, my grandmother has shown me true courage and bravery. When she was a young girl, he father died; he had been along in years when he and her mother had her. Despite this, and the Great Depression, she grew up to be a fine young lady. After marrying my great grandfather right as the United States became involved in WWII, she had to raise their first child by herself until he returned about a year or two later. This, trying to provide for herself and her baby without the physical support of her husband required bravery all in itself. After he returned, they had eight children together in all. Sadly, the eldest, Francis Junior died in his twenties in a construction accident, which was a tragic blow to both my grandmother and my grandfather. Then a few years later her second eldest son, my grandfather, had a car accident from which he later had stroke. After this happened, he had to live with my great grandmother until the time he died, which was forty years later. Caring for a grown child who now had a mental disability must have been incredibly hard for an aging woman to handle, especially once the biggest tragedies of all occurred. The Christmas of 1995 when I was almost a year old, two of her sons and her grandson died in a hunting accident. About seven years later, her husband of about sixty years died of prostate cancer. My grandfather died just seven years after that. Despite all this, she continued on living. With a laugh and a joke in her mind, she kept on going through all these tragedies with God to help her and her family. Because of all of this, she is probably the strongest and bravest woman I have ever had the blessing of meeting; she has inspired me to be strong through all trials and tribulations.

I remember when I first met my great grandmother that I could recall. She was small and thin, but I could tell from her face that she was once a magnificent woman and from her eyes that she had more wisdom than any philosopher from long ago. She was like an old queen, whose regal beauty still left traces on her face and her body even in her old age. When she died, I remember us looking at old pictures of herself, her family, and my great grandfather, and I remember wishing that maybe someday I would be like her in the sense that even in photographs you can see the colors of her heart and soul shining through her. She was positively magnificent. She is my inspiration for the kind of woman I want to be someday; the kind of wife and mother I want to be someday. My great grandmother has shaped me in ways she probably never imagined she would, we hardly even spoke whenever she was around because everyone else was so occupied with her. But, the idea of her, and the stories of her and who she was, are what keep me following in the path she’s created in the endless forest we call life, and it’s kept me going through the hardest points in my life so far. Whenever I cannot take something anymore, whenever I feel as though I should give up, I hear in my mind, “Be like her, remember what she would do”, and I do. Every time I wear something of hers, I feel like her spirit is moving me to be strong and fiery like she was. With her essence around me I feel as though Hell and back would not be an obstacle, because I know she could do it, so I could too. Through all these ways she continues to affect me every day, to push me to be a hard working person, with good morals and a good heart, to work hard for what I want in my life, and to do everything I can to provide for myself and my family. With her guidance, I know I can reach the fullest of my potential, and I can accomplish any task or goal I set my heart and mind to accomplish.

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amrex13 said...
Feb. 6, 2013 at 5:04 pm
That's so beautiful, I wish it had brought someone to mind for me, but I don't seem to know such a wonderful person. :)
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