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HumankindNESS: An Ordinary Life

By Jennifer Richardson
My grandmother Mary passed away in 2007, at the age of 87. Affectionately known as Granny by the time I knew her, she was a storybook grandparent.

Going to her house was an adventure. She lived on a farm with cows wandering in the back yard, a fort built just for us, and lots of room to play. She always had soft drinks and a freezer full of frozen treats. Her hugs and smiles told us she was always happy to spend time with us. She attended an endless round of parties, showers, graduations, and weddings, and she thought every project we did showed great talent.

Granny was legendary for her cooking and baking, and hospitality was the hallmark of a visit with her. She opened her home and table to friends and family on a daily basis. She made homemade noodles, she cooked with heavy cream and butter, and after products started to become “fat free” she worried that an entire generation of people would not understand what delicious was.

She had two daughters and two sons that she dearly loved all of her days. One of her sons was killed in a farm accident at the age of 4, and she missed him so very much. She spoke of him often, but never with bitterness, only about her memories of his brief childhood and how she looked forward to seeing him again in heaven.

Her surviving children produced ten grandchildren for her. By all reports Granny was always thrilled to hear the exciting news that another grandchild was expected. Her heart instantly expanded to celebrate every new life.

She married her high school sweetheart for life, and it was obvious to all that she loved and enjoyed being around her husband. Her thankfulness to have him in her life helped us look forward to being married.

Her dedication was never more precious when Grandpa suffered a stroke at the age of 49, which left him unable to use one side of his body. She lovingly cared for him for many years after until he passed away, and she considered it a privilege. She painted a beautiful picture of how commitment and joy can go hand in hand.

She was a person of faith. She faithfully attended her church service every Sunday until she reached the days when she needed to stay at home, and even then remained very connected to her church family. She never forced her beliefs on anyone; she simply let us see her live a life of purpose, and service.

Laundry was an art-form for Granny. She had concoctions and methods of soaps and soaking that almost no stain could resist. Her blankets and sheets smelled wonderful. I was fortunate to receive an old trunk from her home after her funeral. A few years later I opened the trunk to look for something, and I was immediately greeted by the aroma of her home from a blanket that had been stored within.

For a few seconds it was like she was right there with me. Memories flooded back and brought tears to my eyes; I just soaked it in for a moment before closing the chest to keep the scent, and my fleeting connection with her, alive for as long as I could.

Her family could not afford to send her to college, although she always wanted to go. She never worked outside the home. And as she went about her everyday life filled with tasks like cleaning, cooking, and laundry, it is possible she felt her life was very ordinary.

But over a lifetime of ordinary work she built a strong and vital example of hospitality, generosity, humor, faith, fidelity, and love that impacted and shaped thousands of lives—including mine. She left something extraordinary in every life she touched.

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