Fonticulus Fides

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

A year ago today, my husband's grandmother died. I was very fond of her. She was always especially kind to me -- maybe because she understood what my future in the family would be someday. After all, she and I (and my mother-in-law) each married the oldest son of the Hansen clan. Grandma must have thought that sort of made me the heir to her legacy, as the matriarch. Though I doubt things will work out that way, as the family becomes more widespread geographically and philospophically. I can't see us taking over the farm someday. Actually, I can't see anybody in our generation taking over the farm someday, cousins included.

But back to Edith. She was an amazing woman. The only child of a small-town grocer and his very timid wife, she grew up in a tiny apartment over her father's store, where it was easy to keep tabs on the entire community. At the age of 16, she graduated from high school and went to work for the local newspaper, setting type and proofreading and writing an occasional obituary or birth announcement. She lived a good life, a simple life in a small town. She was industrious and friendly, and she took good care of her aging parents.

Ten years later, she was singing in the church choir on Easter Sunday when a tall, strapping farmer in a navy blue suit entered with a nearly-as-tall woman on his arm. Edith assumed they were man and wife, and thought to herself how lucky that lady must be to have such a nice-looking man take care of her so devotedly. She found out later that Andrew and Daisy Hansen were brother and sister...and that Andrew had had his eye on Edith for quite some time.

They were married quietly a few months later, and Andrew brought her home to be a farm wife. Being a town girl, Edith was never very comfortable around the cows or crop machinery, so she continued to work at the newspaper to help pay for a hired hand. A few years after her wedding, she had a son...and then another and another and another. Then a daughter arrived, quickly followed by the littlest sister -- six children in 8 years time!

Still, she worked at the newspaper during the day, bringing her babies with her and propping them in the corner of paper crates while she set type and proofed the galleys. She was writing her own column in addition to handling all the wedding/birth/graduation/military announcements and obituaries. In the late afternoon, she'd drive back to the farm in the DeSoto and help with the milking. During harvest, the newspaper only came out weekly, so she had plenty of time to help in the fields.

Her children grew up, all of them tall. Edith saw two boys off into the military during the Viet Nam war, including her firstborn (my father-in-law) and prayed for them constantly until they returned home safely. Another son opened his own carpentry business, and the other children went to college and launched successful careers. All the kids married and had babies -- six grandsons born within three years, then five granddaughters followed, born within 4 years.

Edith continued to work for the paper all this time. There was not a wedding or baptism or graduation or funeral that she was not invited to. When the local high school football team went to State, Edith made the trip into Lincoln to sit in the stands and cheer for the boys. She never did learn how to type on a computer, but she understood the paper's "newfangled" automated printing process and explained it to many a grade school class when they came for a tour.

Throughout her life, Edith suffered the usual course of trials and tribulations that are common to us all. Bad years for crops, strife in her beloved Protestant church that caused a split, illness, debt, two divorces among her six children. The newspaper business grew tight, and several other communities consolidated their papers with hers, but Edith still wrote her own column about local events.

Andrew died in 1989 and was buried in the family cemetary that sits on the ridge over the original dugout that Great-Great-Grandpa Andrew built when he staked his claim in the still-wild Nebraska prairie. Six years later, Edith buried her oldest daughter alongside Andrew -- Clara Beth had succumbed to breast cancer at the all-too-young age of 45. Heartbroken as she was at this tremendous loss, Edith clung to her faith in God and used her grief as a means of getting closer to Him and learning more about His will.

Meanwhile, Edith's grandchildren grew up and married and started having babies of their own. First came the boys -- fourteen of them now -- then the three girls so far. There are two more babies due in January, including my own, and I so wish Edith was here on Earth to hold them.

In 1997, Edith moved into town because driving in from the farm in bad weather was just too treacherous, and she had to get her column done. She finally retired from the paper at the age of 87 -- less than a year before her death -- after 61 years of service. Her health had begun to fail her, and she was worried about her accuracy in names and dates. She spent her last months hosting Bible studies in her home and crocheting doilies and attending various town functions as an honored guest. And praying for all of us, of course.

When we saw her a week before she died, she was blissfully happy and perfectly content with her life. Our baby girl smiled at her, and she said to me, "How wonderful, how wonderful!" It occurred to me then that she was saying goodbye somehow, but I put it out of my mind.

On the night of October7, 2002, she had a stroke as she sat in her armchair, crocheting. My father-in-law found her when he drove into town to see why she hadn't answered the phone when he made his nightly call. In the early afternoon on the 8th, as her five living children and several grandchildren surrounded her, she quietly and peacefully slipped away from us and into the hands of God.

She was a wonderful, hard-working, generous, loving mom. She was wonderfully devoted to our Lord and Savior. She was a really great person, and her family still misses the strength of her presence.

I sure wish everybody could have known her.



Post a Comment

<< Home