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My Grandma, the SaintMy Grandma, the Saint
by Philip Gulley

    I want to confess my prejudice right up front by declaring unequivocally that my Grandma Norma was the sweetest lady who ever lived. I didn’t realize this until she had passed away, which explains why I drove by her house sometimes without stopping to visit.

    She was past ninety when she died. Stumbled off the back porch, broke her hip, and died four days after the operation that was supposed to make her as good as new. I suspect she overheard the doctor say “nursing home” and simply willed herself to die. Technically, her heart gave out, which makes sense, knowing how much she used it.

    Grandma was the family antidote to the both-parents-working-and-too-tired-to-talk syndrome. Since this isn’t an essay about how we have to work so much because we want so much, 1 won’t dwell on that. I’ll only say that Grandma decided early on that being there for children was more important than working to buy them stuff they didn’t need in the first place.

    Psychiatrists have the couch, but Grandma had the porch swing and the kitchen table and a certain way of listening as if you were the only one in God’s world worth hearing. Lot of talk these days about the formation of self-esteem and helping children feeling valued, but we want the schools to do it. I remember when an hour with Grandma left you feeling like royalty.

...an hour with Grandma left you feeling like royalty.
    Given her prospects, I understood her wanting to cross heaven’s threshold. Only thing is, she stepped over before we were done needing her. I wanted my sons to do some swing time with her. Wanted them to hear how there was no one quite like them, and how special they were and handsome and smart. The kind of things Grandma told me. Now I guess it falls to my mom. I wonder if she knows that, or if I’ll have to tell her. I suspect she knows, being Grandma’s daughter.

    I call my grandmother a saint because she’s the only person I ever met who prayed her rosary twice a day. Those were the only times she wasn’t available to us, when she was in her bedroom lifting up her “Hail Marys” and “Our Fathers.” As a child, I resented the notion that talking with God was more important than talking with me.

    In retrospect, I understand that time she spent in prayer helped her be all the more present for others. Maybe the reason we don’t have time for one another anymore isn’t because we work too much, but because we pray too little. How else can God reorder our priorities?

    At her funeral, the priest said it was a day of celebration. That’s the kind of thing we ministers learn to say in seminary. And it holds up until someone like Grandma dies, then no amount of heaven-talk eases the pain. The graveyard sees a hurt the classroom never knows.

    In the Bible it tell us not to worry, that in God’s house are found mansions aplenty. I don’t think Grandma would like a mansion. Too much dusting. Just give her a porch swing and a child needing love. And throw in a breeze that blows in from the old days, when an hour with a saint made all the world right.

      From the book Front Porch Tales, by Philip Gulley. © 1997 by Multnomah Pub., used by permission.

      Title: "My Grandma, the Saint"
      Author: Philip Gulley
      Publication Date: May 10, 2001

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 About the Author
Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor who ministers in Indianapolis. He is married and has two preschool sons. In addition to pastoring and writing, Gulley enjoys spending Sunday afternoons in his hometown.


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