Sunday, December 19, 2010

Remembering Grandmother's Gifts

It was 1987, six days before Christmas, when I received word that my maternal grandmother was dead. A massive stroke had taken her from us, so unexpectedly.

The news brought an enormous sense of loss. I grieved not only for myself, but for my little daughter as well. Never would Grandmother be a real part of her life. Only a strange face to study in a photograph album.

I loved Grandmother for many reasons. One was for her prankish nature. I remember how she would be sitting innocently, engaged in mature conversation, and the next minute you looked, her false teeth would be sticking out of her mouth. That ridiculous sight sent me and my sisters into giggly piles on the sofa. My grandfather would smile and offer a boyish-sounding reprimand, using his pet name for her: “Ganmummy, you best behave yourself, now.” He worshipped the ground she walked on.

Grandmother's house was a special place during the holiday season. As a young child, I remember anxiously waiting for the appointed day when our family would pile in the car and head toward northern Mississippi for Christmas at my grandparent's house.

After what seemed like an eternity, we'd drive up, plunge out of the car, and wrap ourselves around Grandmother, burying our faces in her freshly starched house dress. Laughing, she would guide us into the kitchen where the pressure cooker sat hissing, sending the divine smell of fresh turnip greens or purple hulls wafting through the house.

Visiting Grandmother in 1960.

Furtively, my sisters and I would roam from room-to-room, hoping to catch a glimpse of wrapped packages with our names on them.

It never happened.

Grandmother believed in the element of surprise. We knew the gifts were there. And she knew we knew. But—without fail—she waited until the final moment, when our emotions skyrocketed, before she revealed the whereabouts of the hidden prizes.

Breathlessly, I'd settle on the couch and listen to the rustle of her garments as she ambled down the long hall. In a few minutes, she'd return, bearing the coveted gifts. "Well—look what I found," she'd say, her voice childlike, her face glowing like a southern sunset.

But more than any Christmas package, I recall the countless times I heard my grandmother pray. When bedtime rolled around at Grandmother’s house, everyone was called to prayer. And it seemed she entered heaven’s gates the minute her knees touched the rug. She prayed with such fervency that even as a small child, I knew whatever she had was the real thing. Hearing her call my name in prayer filled me with a sense of security. I felt safe, knowing Grandmother was praying for me. And she did, right up to her dying day.

August, 1987 - The last time I saw Grandmother before her passing.
She was meeting my little daughter for the first time.

At the funeral home, I stumbled to the open casket, longing to feel the warmth of her stocky arms wrapping around me one more time. Some thoughtful person had placed a bouquet of flowers in her hands. Each delicate petal reminded me of the fragility of this life. A vapor, no less.

Reaching out to caress her silent form, I found myself overcome with grief. How could I ever celebrate Christmas without Grandmother? And then, just as quickly, I realized I didn't have to.

My observance of Christ's birthday is not locked into one day of the year; I celebrate His birth every day. So it is with Grandmother. Her life could not be left lying in some cold, blue box, only to be remembered on the anniversary of her death or her birth. A part of Grandmother will always be with me. For the gifts she gave during her lifetime will never decay with the passing of time; they are eternal.

"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (II Corinthians 5:1).


  1. Dayle, I loved this. I had a grandmother who sounded so much like yours. I even lost her right before Christmas, and I wondered too how I would ever feel the same about Christmas.

    But just as you said, I still celebrate her life every day.

    I think grandmothers are one of the greatest blessings from God don't you? I hope you're filled with yet more warm memories today on the anniversary of her home going and EVERY day, just as you said.

  2. This is a beautiful story. Your grandmother sounds a lot like mine. Here's hoping that you are well and enjoying your holidays, and above all, remembering your wonderful grandmother!


  3. Dayle - such beautiful memories of your grandmother. Even though we never stop missing our departed loved ones, when we know they are with the Savior, we do not grieve without hope. We have the precious promise that someday we will see them again.


  4. Such a dear lady that has filled your heart with love, fun and faith. I long to be this kind of grandmother to my own grandchildren.

    So good to read your happy memories of this sweet lady!

  5. Oh, Dayle. Our hearts are in the same place this morning. I posted about Joy and missing those who have gone on before us and then I came here and read this. The memories you hold are so precious. Thanks for sharing her with us.

  6. I too had a grandmother like this who I loved beyond reason. We lost her a few days after Christmas many years ago. And your soo right. I celebrate her life every day and still tell the stories and memories I have of her. How I long to be this kind of a grandma to my sweet little grands. Your's sounds just wonderful Have a wonderful Christmad...HUGS

  7. Grandmother was, for sure, a rare gem.

  8. I just posted a tribute to my grandmother yesterday! It was a short post but could have very well read like yours. Well, if you had written it that is. hehe You're such a gifted author to be able to put all those memories and emotions into writing.
    We are so blessed to have such a Godly heritage. Makes me wonder who's going to take the place of our parents and grandparents who were/are such prayer warriors.
    Have a blessed Christmas!

  9. What a lovely tribute to your Grandmother! I love how writing our memories keep them vivid in our mind. Have a great day!

  10. That was a very poignant post, Dayle. Our loved ones do, indeed, continue to live through our own lives. A blessed Christmas to you. Susan

  11. Sounds like your grandmother was a wonderful character and left you with many happy memories.

  12. Dayle, thank you for sharing your dear grandmother with us. She was obviously a wonderful lady and your love for her is so beautiful to see. I never knew my grandmothers..but I'd like to think they were something similar to your godly Ganmummy :-)
    bless you..Trish

  13. What a beautiful post honoring her. I want to be this kind of gramma (except the funny part about the teeth)!

    I hope you have a beautiful Christmas celebration and a great new year. I've enjoyed reading your blog for a while, and I look forward to more.

  14. Such a thoughtful post.
    I love these old photos - your mom is "stylin" in that dress.

  15. Beautiful tribute to your grandmother...and yes we celebrate Him all year long.
    Precious photos...I have so many that look the same...what a gift to have Godly grandmothers, I pray I will be a Godly example for my own grandchildren one day.
    Merry Christmas!!

  16. What beautiful memories you have of your grandmother. I pray daily that my grandchildren will remember me in such a tender way.I didn't have a grandmother..both dying before I was born. I have always tried to be the very best grandmother for my sweeties that I could possibly be. I am so thankful for my family.

    Have a blessed Christmas..
    O, and I have my PLEASURES post up but not sure you are doing it this week. I'll ck back later.


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