Yesterday at our church’s Easter Services we had a guest vocalist sing “How Great Thou Art” and as a congregation we sang, “In the Garden (and he walks with me and he talks with me).” These songs were both on my Grandma Erickson’s Elvis Presley Gospel Album (released in 1967) titled “How Great Thou Art.” I remember playing that album and singing these songs at her house (and at church) throughout the years.
The Easter Celebration combined with these songs was very emotional for me and it spurred a discussion between Allison and me about my very stoic, German Grandmother. She lived across the yard from us on the farm all the while I was growing up. It saddens me that I’ve finally come to a much better understanding of her thirteen years after her death.
I eulogized her then. I wish I could do it over again. I would include the fact that she was a widowed farm-wife in rural South Dakota with five children in the early 1960’s when she was in her early-fifties. This, after the death of my Grandfather from pancreatic cancer, which must have been even more horrible to witness than it is in this day-and-age. This was not an easy life. She never remarried. She spent her life working hard and practicing faith in God. She had few close friends but her sisters, one son and one daughter lived nearby. She was proud of all of her family. Unfortunately, I think a lot of us misinterpreted her concern for us as criticism which closed off communication rather than stimulating it.
She was a proud woman trying to prevent us from the judgment of others by preemptively thinking of those things that might hurt us and pointing them out – which had us running for cover – because we didn’t ‘sit like ladies’ or we ‘looked a little chunky’ in that outfit or ‘we didn’t keep our rooms clean’ like we should. All of those things were true. They just weren’t delivered in the warm-fuzzy manner we would have preferred. She was never taught to value ‘warm and fuzzy.’ There was work to be done. Honesty was the best policy.
My appreciation for all of her idiosyncrasies comes from maturity, I suppose, but also a better understanding of truth and the impressions left on us by the path on which life takes us. Like all of us, Grandma was doing the best she could with what she had – with the experiences she had growing up, with the hand she was dealt as an adult. She had a life filled with loss, loneliness and struggle.
Through it all, she loved her family dearly. She worked hard. She did her best and wanted the best for us. When it comes down to it, that’s all we can expect of anyone, including ourselves. If you love and appreciate someone (especially those with some idiosyncrasies of their own), tell them just that while they are still here with us.