I didn’t know either of my grandfathers on earth. These good men left for heaven before I arrived. I was blessed to know their extraordinary spouses-my grandmothers. One of them was named Estelle. As her grandchild, I called her “Nana.” Nana was cheerful and quick to laugh. She was smart and resilient. She was soft spoken, but knew how to use her voice with firmness when necessary. Always, it seemed to me, she used that voice for good.
She wasn’t one to talk about faith, but all of us grandchildren knew she was a faith multimillionaire. She spent that faith on her unyielding patience; on her benevolence and pure choices. Her face glowed with the elegance of faith.
By the time I was born, she was advanced in years, but still spry. She allowed my sister and me to come over frequently. Opportunities to visit Nana thrilled us to the core. I often begged for these chances and my mother would acquiesce. Sometimes I would go alone, and other times, my sister Betsy and I would head for Nana’s together. There we would play dress-up and wear costume jewelry that Nana kept in a large, heart shaped box. Betsy and I imagined and laughed, and visited with Nana. At the end of each day with her, we would fall deeply and happily asleep.
On one of these visits, I woke up in the middle of the night. I was so young and afraid of the dark. I sought Nana for comfort. She wasn’t in her bed. How could this be? I padded around softly, searching. Where was she? A tiny panic started to rise in my little chest. I searched and squinted in the mostly darkness of 3-ish AM. Then, I spied her, around a corner. She was kneeling against an ottoman in a corner of her living room, praying.
From a distance, I stared at her folded, reverent back, as she silently poured out her heart to God. My little footie jammies and I gingerly, nearly noiselessly, entered the room. Nana didn’t look up. She didn’t know I was there. I stared for a long while. At last my sleepy self could stay no more. I went back to bed.
This experience left a deep impression on me. Nana knew God lived. She loved Him. She believed He could help.
Prayer, I came to realize, was where Nana got her power-the power to love others so consistently. It ignited her power to forgive, even when life had been devastating. For example, a young, nervous, and inexperienced nurse once made a tragic error during the delivery of one of Nana’s babies. Because of this, Nana’s previously perfectly healthy (in utero) baby boy was born with severe handicaps. Nana forgave that nurse. She took her mute, unable to mentally progress (past early toddlerhood) baby boy home and raised him until he was fully grown and she could no longer do it alone.
This was Boston in the 1940’s. Children with handicaps were not as embraced and loved as they are today. They were often sent away to institutions. Nana refused to send her son away. Then Nana had my mother. Then she had baby Helen. There were four children then, including beloved Uncle Paul, the oldest. Then tragedy struck again, when disease took her beautiful, precious baby daughter Helen at age three. Later, a stroke took her beloved husband when she was still the mother of teenagers.
Somehow, Nana always knew to turn towards the light, not away. The night I found her in my jammies would not be the last time I found Nana praying. It also wouldn’t be the last time I wondered about how much goodness could be stuffed into one human.
I am now “Nana” to eight small grandchildren, with one on the way. This all happened so fast-this move from childhood to Nanahood. It’s a bit head spinning-this speed through mortality, isn’t it?
I can feel Nana with me sometimes. She is still watching me, as she often did from her window, when I would play outside as little girl. I would look up, and see her there in that window, silently smiling down at me. Now she is just on the other side of another sort of “window.” Now she is watching me try to be a Nana, trying to achieve Nana goals.
I’m trying hard Nana:). See you in a tumble of years.
I love you.
P.S. You are ever invited to listen to our podcast “Moms Meet World” playing on all major (and many minor) platforms like Apple, Spotify, Amazon, etc.. It’s about strengthening families. Also, for those who have been wondering about the book on strengthening home and family, the publishers have indicated that it will be out this February (2022).
Thanks for being a wonderful readership.