I never met my Grandmother Delp. She died March 14, 1959 and I was born on April 5, 1960. However, I think I know her. I know her through stories from her children. I know her through stories of her grandchildren. I know her through her writing and she loved to write. We can see that in the poems she wrote in her high school yearbook or in the many journals she kept throughout her life. So we share a gift of the use of words. We also share a common grief. She knew what it was like to lose a child. Actually, my grandmother lost four children during her life. She gave birth to ten children, with seven of them making it past infancy. My Aunt Sally died when she was 12 and I think it is the pain of the loss of that child that my grandmother and I share.
From the stories I have heard about my grandmother, she was an exceptional woman. She did not have an easy life, yet I have yet to hear a story about her bitterness or anger. Now there are stories about her frustration with her children and a pair of scissors, but that is a story for another time. On the contrary, people tell me about her kindness and her love. I once wrote a paper about the culture of the neighborhood in which my father lived as a child. It described the community of families who would gather on summer nights in their yards. The men would be watering their lawns with hoses. The women would be sitting in somone's front yard, visiting or doing chores, such as snapping green beans. The children were playing somewhere close by. This is the image I have of my grandmother.
But one year, her youngest daughter became sick. At first they thought Sally was anemic, but if one would read Grandma's journals, one can see--with our knowledge of cancer today--she had some type of cancer. In 1945, my aunt died of leukemia. During the final year of her life, my grandmother kept track of who gave blood, sent cards, or did other acts of kindness for the family. All of this has been recorded for my generation to read in Grandma's journals. I have a book like that. It is the book we used for people to sign at Andrew's dinner. It has a list of all the people who spent June 10, 2010 with us, grieving the loss of a special son. But to my book, I have added pictures. Grandma kept the record of the end of Sally's life with words. I have a record of the celebration of Andrew's life with pictures. It is a book I will one day give to Hendrix--she will be my caretaker of that time in my life. I want her to have it so she will remember how much Andrew was loved--not just by his family, but by the community who helped him grow into the sweet boy that he was.
I think I look like my Aunt Sally, especially when we were the same age. So I wonder, when Andrew met Grandma and Grandpa Delp, along with Sally and the babies, whether he thought, "She kind of looks like my mom." Andrew helped us place flowers on the graves of my grandparents and on the graves of "the babies" every Memorial Day, so he knew of these family members who had gone on before him. This next Memorial Day, Hendrix will learn about her great-great grandparents and the babies who are in heaven with Andrew, as we place flowers yet another year.
Another thing my grandmother and I have in common is our relationship with God. It was through my grandmother that my mother was introduced to a relationship with God and it was through my mother that I was introduced to a relationship with God and I introduced Andrew to a relationship with God. And it is through Hendrix's grandmother that she has been introduced to a relationship with God. So, my grandmother's words...It is through them I have learned to love a woman who I never met, but with whom I have so much in common. And now, it is this woman who watches over my son. Andrew is being surrounded by my grandmother's words and by her love.