Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Remembering Vera Kathryn Salmons

My Granny, Vera Kathryn Salmons, passed away this weekend, and today was her memorial service. I didn't get to travel to West Virginia to be there, but if I had, this might have been my homily as part of her celebration of life.  Since it's on my blog, I feel like it is almost more about me than it is about her, but isn't every thing we say more about us than those we are speaking about? So, here they are my memories of Vera:

Ever since I can remember, whenever we would look at pictures of me from when I was little, there would inevitably be a picture that would come up and everyone would say, "Oh, there's the Vera face." Maybe those of you who know us both, know that face. If you asked me exactly what it means, I'm not sure I could tell you. But I know I still make that face, I'm probably even making it right now. Maybe it's the accumulation of determination and strong will to make myself heard and make a difference in the world. As a baby, that meant, "I'm cold and hungry, so bring me some Cheerios and hold me."  I'm sure I also made the face as I learned to walk without crawling first, because I was so determined(note: feel free to insert stubborn for every use of the word determined).  I used to see it as a negative thing, because it's not a happy face.  It is definitely a frustrated, pursing of the lips, serious kind of face. But when I look back at Vera Kathryn's life, I also see it as a special point of strength that has brought us both through difficult times. It is the face that recognizes something isn't right in the world, and we can change it.

My two sets of grandparents could not have been more different. My mom's parents had been happily married from the time my Papa returned from war and until my Mama passed away in 1991. My Dad's parents had been divorced and separated since Grandfather Tom's alcoholism hit a low point and Granny kicked him out, something that was not so common during the 50's/60's as it is in today's world. I always admired her for being able to break out of the system of abuse and provide for her family as a single mother.  It took an incredible amount of grit and strength, and a good stern Vera face.

Granny was never one to keep silent.  If she disagreed with something, she would let you know.  If she was unhappy, she would let you know. If she wanted something done, she would let you know.

In a similar way, Granny was never the one to sit still. She was incredibly active with Eastern Star, and she traveled all over the United States going to all of the conferences, and she would always have a fantastic dress for each one. Once she had retired, she started working at the Senior Center, hosting activities and delivering meals on wheels till well into her 80's.  I always felt like she did it, because she knew these people deserved to be cared for and looked after. I remember touring the Senior Center back in Kenova, and how she showed us what she did, not out of pride, but out of a calling to meet the needs of others.  When my Aunt Helen was incredibly ill from diabetes, Granny cared for her and stuck by her till the end.  I remember her determination to do what she could to make Helen comfortable in whatever way she could.  That Vera face was serious about making things right in this world.

Although we were not as close with Granny as we could have been, I sometimes feel close to her just because of our stubborn grit.  It wasn't something I learned from being down the street from her, it is something God placed within us to be a force of good in the world. Today, I give thanks for that dear Vera face: that determination that this brokenness we see in the world can be morphed into something purposeful and each of us can play a part in the transformation of our own lives and the world around us.  It got me to walk those 32 years ago, and it keeps me walking forward every day of my life.

So, thank you, Lord, for my granny, and thank you for the grit in my heart and her grin on my face;)

"They were brave warriors, ready for battle and able to handle the shield and spear. Their faces were the faces of lions, and they were as swift as gazelles in the mountains."  1 Chronicles 12:8