Category: grandmothers


This weekend marked my maternal grandmother’s 97th birthday. Yes, 97. She looks like a spritely 75-year-old, is in excellent health, and until very recently could work circles around anyone half her age. I remember a few years ago when she was in the emergency room with an about-to-rupture gall bladder and the nurse asked her what medications she was currently taking. She said, ‘I don’t take anything’. The nurse turned to my mother and asked the same question, remarking that my grandmother didn’t hear or understand what she had asked. My grandmother, in excruciating pain, fired right back, “I heard you and I understood you. And I will tell you again, I don’t take any medication for anything.”

 My mother didn’t need to say a word.

 This weekend my family also celebrated my youngest son’s 10th birthday. Finally, double digits. My grandmother, his great-grandmother, “Memaw”, 87 years his senior.

 Although we don’t get to spend a tremendous amount of time together, my children adore their great-grandmother. And I’ve been thinking of a few things I hope they have learned from her, passed down generation to generation, reminding them of their roots and the legacy they’ve been given.

1. Family is everything. My earliest memories of my grandmother center around family gatherings. She and my Papa loved nothing more in the world than being surrounded by their children and grandchildren. They loved the churches my grandfather pastored and poured their hearts into the lives of its members, but nothing – and I mean nothing – brought them greater joy than having family around them.

2. Loyalty matters. My grandmother is fiercely loyal. She can correct, rebuke, and even punish a family member who gets out of line, but woe to the outsider who attempts to do the same. My Memaw is one of the sweetest, most gracious and forgiving Southern women you could ever hope to meet. Until you say something unkind about one of her own. Then I would suggest you head for the hills. Fast.

3. Growth is important. My grandmother was a teacher for most of her adult life using a teaching degree she earned in 1934. And at the age of 50, she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Education fromBerryCollege. Yes, going back to college was difficult. Yes, it took time, and energy, and commitment. But she did it. She also learned to drive. And for the record, she was a better student than she was a driver. The roots of my “Lead Foot Lucy” nickname can be traced straight back to her!

4. Change is inevitable. My grandfather was a pastor. Not at one church. Not at two or three churches. In his 57 years as a pastor, my Papa shepherded seven church congregations spread out over three states. My grandmother always made it an adventure, a calling, an opportunity. And she always made it home. No muss, no fuss. Just set up house, share the (one) bathroom, gather the family around the table for a home-cooked meal, and say the blessing. Make friends, embrace change, celebrate birthdays, holidays, and babies, and be grateful for the pillow on which you lay your head at night.

5. Marriage is forever. My grandparents were married for almost 60 years. When my Papa, her beloved Charles, was dying of cancer she was his advocate, his caretaker, his nurse, his meal planner, his gentle bath-giver, his prayer warrior. She was strong as he grew weaker, and she bravely held his hand as he left his earthly body to embrace immortality. Memaw taught us how to grieve loss and celebrate life in the same breath. She cried and she laughed and she hugged long and hard those who shared her grief. And she has faced head-on the years without him, sadly at times, accepting that it is not yet her time to be reunited with him. When it was suggested at one time that she consider re-marrying, she looked away and softly said, “it’s not for me; Charles was my one and only.”

6. The Bible is true. I don’t know how many times my Memaw has read through the Bible but she can teach it as if she wrote it herself! (No disrespect intended.) When she talks about her favorite passages or verses in the Bible, they truly come to life. Her love for God’s word is the foundation and cornerstone of her existence. And anyone who has ever met her knows that to be true about her. She doesn’t preach the Bible to those around her. She doesn’t have to because she lives it every single day.

7. Prayer works. My Memaw has spent hundreds, probably thousands, of hours throughout her life praying for her family, her friends, her community, her country, and the world. When she awakens during the night, instead of getting a warm glass of milk and going back to sleep, she gets on her knees and prays for whoever is on her heart and mind. And she stays there until she feels a peace about climbing back under the covers. I’ve heard her tell of many a night when she prayed right on through the night until it was time to start the day’s work. My life is living proof that her prayers were heard and answered.

8. Eternity is forever. I can’t remember a time (almost ever) when my grandmother hasn’t reminded us all that she wants nothing more in the world than for her family to be together. Forever. Eternally. She reminds us all how important it is for us to stay in right relationship with God, to love Him above all else, and to be obedient to His leading. Through teary eyes and strained voice she pleads with us all to be sure, be absolutely sure, that we know where we will spend eternity. And then she smiles that sweet little smile, cocks her head and whispers, “I love you all so much.”

 Happy birthday, Memaw. Happy birthday, Stephen. As I find myself standing between the young and old, it occurs to me that the distance between 10 and 97 is not really very far. Not when it’s measured with love.

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I come from a long line of strong Southern women, one of them my maternal grandmother.  She is 96 today, my only living grandparent.  I feel extremely blessed to have had a close relationship with all my grandparents and have wonderful memories that span from my childhood well into adulthood.  But Margaret Louise Shigley Crowe, known to me and my nine cousins all our lives simply as “Memaw” is especially dear to me.  Born the youngest of 12 children, she developed a crush on my grandfather in the third grade – and her hooks go deep and long.  After graduating from high school (as salutatorian of her class in 1932) she and my Papa were very much in love.  My great-grandmother didn’t care for my grandfather and didn’t want them to marry.  So they eloped!  And kept it a secret for three months, my grandmother still living at home with her parents and my grandfather with his.  Finally, my Papa decided their arrangement was for the birds.  He went to Mamaw Shigley’s house to tell her he had married my grandmother, stated his intentions for them to ‘set up house’ together, and held his ground.  My great-grandmother responded simply, “Well, what’s done is done.  I guess I’ll learn to love you.”  And love him she did.  It wasn’t long before Papa was her favorite and everybody knew it.
Memaw and Papa raised five children, four girls and a boy right in the middle.  They lived in a small house and managed with only one bathroom between the seven of them.  My grandfather never failed to start the day with all his children kneeling for prayer around the kitchen table.  And very few mornings passed that my grandmother didn’t prepare a full Southern breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, gravy, made-from-scratch biscuits, and grits.  As a pastor’s wife my grandmother was expected to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, raise perfect children, keep a perfect home, coordinate and organize church events, weddings, funerals, baby dedications, and teach Vacation Bible School.  She did it all with grace, beauty, and excellence.
Papa was a preacher for 57 years before his death in 1992 and my grandmother was undeniably his biggest fan.  He struggled occasionally with feelings of inadequacy because he never attended seminary.  My grandmother would pat him gently on the arm and say, “now Charles, you are a student of God’s word and He never fails to give you a strong message.  Don’t you ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”  My grandmother never denied that her family had its faults and shortcomings, but God help the person outside the bloodline who brought it to her attention!  She is fiercely loyal and it wouldn’t surprise me if her picture is listed in the Encyclopedia Britannica next to “Bear, Mama”.
Memaw was a school teacher for 32 years, receiving her teaching degree in 1934 and many years later her BS in Education from Berry College at the age of 50.  Around that same she also learned how to drive, instructed by the calm and gentle guidance of my grandfather.  She stopped driving barely two years ago and only recently gave up her condo to live with one of my aunts in south Georgia.  Strong indeed.  I’ve watched her hands prepare countless meals, fly across the keys of a piano, and gently caress many a loved one.  I’ve chuckled as she washed a piece of tin foil, dried it, folded it squarely and returned it to the drawer for later use.  When I think of her I visualize crossword puzzles, reading voraciously, and going to the beach. 
And when she prays, I am convinced God raises His hand and says, “Listen, it’s my Margaret.”  My grandmother.  My Memaw.  My hero.    

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