A few short weeks ago, I was standing in a crowded hallway at Missouri Annual Conference. When my phone rang, seeing it was my Dad, I took a deep breath and answered. "She's gone." That phrase hung in the air, and after exchanging a few short pieces of information, the conversation was over. Grandma was in heaven. I knew it was coming. I had made a point to see her before going to Springfield knowing these were the likely way things would go. We left Annual Conference early and drove to Stewartsville for the services and gathering of family. If you have spent much time with me at all, you likely know how important my Great-Grandparents were in my life, and how blessed I was to have them. I want to take a moment and say "Thank you" to all who texted, called, messaged, prayed for, or thought of our family in the last couple of weeks. Additionally, to my Pleasant Grove Family, THANK YOU for the wonderful plant that is now a fixture in the church office. There is nothing easy about losing a loved one, but at the age of 31, I realize that if (and that is a big if) I live to be 100 years old I will have had Great-Grandma for a third of my life, and that is nothing to, “shake a stick at.” An intense wave of emotion causes someone to look for an outlet, and usually, it is worked out in a creative outlet, for me that was writing. Therefore, as I spend countless hours in hotel rooms and the car those difficult weeks, I found myself writing a eulogy of sorts as a way of memorializing this fantastic woman. I attempted to read this eulogy at her service, but due to the emotion of the moment was not able to finish it. I have this need to share this with the world so that they will know, how Geneva Jackson lives on in my memory. You will find my words below, and it is my prayer that it will not only allow you a glimpse into my story but will also draw you deeper into your own.
In recent years, as I have moved around and started a new career, I have had an opportunity to discuss my family. These opportunities would often involve the realization that at the age of 31 I still had a Great-Grandmother. See I have had Great-Grandparents most of my life, and I didn't realize how rare that was or how blessed I was until later in my life. In elementary school while many of my classmates were losing their grandparents, I was spending the weekend with Grandma and Grandpa on the farm. As I would get the chance to describe this beautiful woman I would often come to a word, "Steady." Now, before I get too far in I recognize that "Steady" is not a common Grandma descriptor, but for Geneva Jackson, no other word will do.
See steady can be used as an adjective mean, "fixed." Grandma was a fixed form of support in our lives. For Valentine's Day boxes and Mic-O-Say costumes, she would help us for hours around her kitchen table. She may not know the cartoon character or the item we were creating, but as long as we had a picture, it always turned out. I have no idea how many school party contests we won thanks to Grandma's help. Her support of our activities didn't stop at Valentine's boxes. She and Grandpa would regularly attend ball games and parades, but when the uneven ground became difficult for them to walk; they would sit in the truck and watch from the road. When we would run up to meet them, Grandma always had Grandpa open his wallet, so that we could run to the eat shack to get a pop or snack. With Grandma there was always snacks, in Grandma's fridge, you could always count on two things ham and Root Beer. In conversation with my family over the last several weeks, we noticed that for some reason a ham sandwich always tasted better at Grandma's. You could buy the same ham, the same bread, the same cheese, but it was never the same. That sandwich was always washed down with a can of A&W Root Beer. In thinking back, I don’t think I ever saw Grandma drink one, but she kept them around for us. These things are fixed memories for me, fixed in the files of my mind for the moments when I am lost or lonely.
Steady is not just an adjective but also a noun meaning "stabilize." Grandma was definitely a stabilizing force. Early in our marriage anytime Margie and I were trying to figure out how to cook, or if the no longer identifiable thing from the freezer was still good, I would rapidly dial Grandma's number. She would offer us a solution. When Gibson was born, we struggled with colic, and again we found ourselves calling Grandma. "Just Rock," was the advice I would repeat over and over for hours into the early morning hours as we tried to sooth Gibs back to sleep. As I reflect over the years, often whenever life would get difficult I would find my way to Grandma's house. I don't recall ever talking over my troubles with her; they just seemed better by being there. Oddly enough Grandma's carpet was older then I am, but it was overwhelmingly the softest in the world. There is nowhere in the world to take a nap than on the floor in front of Grandma Heat Stove.
Steady is also an exclamation, such as “Steady As She Goes!” This cry of warning and encouragement was echoed throughout the life of a woman who lived for her family. I watched as she walked bravely into the unknown at the loss of her husband 15 years ago. She seems so confident as she helped us face the unknown. Years later as she was sitting in the hospital recovering from a massive stroke I saw this same will and determination as she worked with therapy and fought to regain her independence. The day we moved her back to farm, by herself I was in awe at her strength and determination. A few months ago, when the decision was that her risk of falling was higher than her desire for independence, she bravely entered skilled care at Hillcrest Manor. Then a week ago when we made the hard decisions to give her comfort and peace, she boldly looked me in the eye and nodded then there were no words.
Steady is not a common word for a Grandma, but my Grandma was anything but common.