Nov 10, 2014

Remembering Grandma

I did not know the shy, beautiful Chinese girl who caught the eye of Willie Thomson. . .
My grandparents, William and Enid Thomson not long after their marriage in 1944

  I didn't know the mother of four--two boys and two girls--raising her kids as a pastor's wife in Trinidad. . .

Grandpa and Grandma when they were still just Daddy and Mummy, with their children in the early 1960's.

 And I knew little of the frail, withdrawn woman longing for Jesus to come as she worked at her computer and  watched the birds in the feeder outside her window in the final years, months, days, and perhaps hours and minutes of her life.

Grandma working at her computer on her 91st birthday, October 6, 2014, just less than a month before she passed.  The day before she died she was posted up at her computer working like always.  Grandma lived and loved to work, helping mom with her court transcribing buisness. When mom found her she was not resting in bed, but collapsed on the floor, felled on her way to somewhere.  She died as she had loved to live: on the move.

This is the woman I knew Enid Thomson to be during my growing up years:  a strong woman, a fiercesome woman, a force of nature, of love, of God.
Grandma and Grandpa as I remember them in my formative years.

She was a second mother to me (one who could, and in rare cases, did trump my own mother's authority.  I'll always remember the day that mom said I could walk over to Zayres and grandma vetoed the permission).

My grandma often had a stern countenance but always had a twinkle in her eye.  She had firm hand but a penchant for fun and even a little mischief too. She was unsentimental but unwavering in her love.  I remember her singing songs and dancing (a kind of Adventist-approved sashay that I can see clearly see in my head but find it hard to explain) She loved God and trusted Him completely.  To the very end her life was in His hands.

This video, added to my blog in one of my earliest entries is mainly about Aunt Coleen's famous mac and cheese, but there is a very brief snippet of grandma greeting the camera, which is the only video I can find of her right  now.  Still, so much of who she was is captured in that brief greeting--her shyness, her humor, her spunk.

We feared grandma growing up, in the way that I think we are intended to fear God.  Respect and honor, most definitely. But also, just a little bit scared too.  Just a little.  And not because she ever raised a hand to us, ever said a hurtful or abusive word. It was inconceivable that she would ever hurt us in any way.  Yet we feared her none the less.  She carried a marvelous moral authority like no one else I've known--even more than Grandpa.  It was her righteousness that we found fearsome.  Even as adults, wise grandchildren understood that wayward ways must be kept from grandma.

But here's the thing--at least for me--when grandma busted us doing wrong there was a kindness and grace in her reprimand that if we thought about it, we should have known was there all along.  When I was in college grandma came across a racy story I'd written on her computer  At least I'll always believe that's what happened.  I was living in the room above my grandparents garage and while they were away in Florida for the winter, I had the run of their house. I typed the story on her computer--which in itself was a piece of foolishness--and then somehow lost it after printing it.  I couldn't find the file, and eventually gave up figuring it I must have somehow deleted it.  But I think grandma must have found it because in the spring of 1994 when she and grandpa returned from their sojourn in Florida, I found a letter from grandma slipped under the door of my room.  At the time I thought this was a unique experience, but in later years I lerarned grandma had a habit of writing "letters of counsel" to her children and grandchildren as she saw the need.  Little did I know that I had been privileged to recieve a Letter from grandma.  In it she explained that she was aware of my choices to have sex outside of marriage and lovingly urged me to reconsider my path.  She assured me that she wouldn't tell anyone else, not even my mom or my grandfather. But she urged me to reconsider the lifestyle choices I was making.   I was horrified.  I rushed to explain to grandma.  "Grandma, is this because of the story I wrote?  Because that was just a story.. .I just made that up. . .I'm not actually, well you know. . .[awward pause].. .sexually active,"  Grandma would neither confirm nor deny that the story was why she believed I was fornicating, but it was clear that she wasn't buying my protestations of virginity either.  Nonetheless, she remained patient, kind, loving and firmly maintained her encouragement that I keep myself pure from this point on.

The funny thing is, I wasn't offended at all by grandma's Letter, her refusal to say whether the sexed-up story was motivation behind the letter, or her declining to believe my denials.  Instead, I was touched by her concern.  Maybe I would have felt differently if it was actually true or if our views on the issue had actually been different.  I'd like to hope that even if I had been sleeping around (something not entirely unappealing at the time, thus the reason for the story in the first place) I would still have felt as I do today, that this is one of my most precious memories of my grandma. I feel lucky to have recieved my Letter from grandma, and my only regret is that I don't still have it.

Grandma liked to work. It was one of the things she did almost to the very end. She played the organ.  She taught Sabbath School for many years and volunteered at the local SDA elementary school.  She made grape juice and had a garden that she worked with grandpa.  I remember when she had very long hair that she wore up most of the time,  I remember when she cut it short, and when she wore wigs. I remember her driving to the conference office in St.Croix every morning in their Volvo station wagon and the tan and brown uniforms she wore.  I remember that she gave Barbara and me $100 to spend at EPCOT.  Grandma had simple, childlike faith that had power like I've rarely seen.  When she prayed, mountains move.  She never ever doubted that God would listen and act on her behalf.

I look forward to seeing her again one day soon.  And very soon, if her prayers are answered (And her prayers were always answered)  She won't look like I remember--more like those pictures of the quiet, beautiful Chinese girl who caught Willie Thomson's eye (and will be catching it again!), but I'm sure she'll have that same twinkle in her eye,, that little smile tugging at her mouth and she'll say "I'm so glad you are here, grandson.  This is what I prayed for."

Grandma, at the age of 82, with two of her granddaughters, my sister Dawn and my cousin Yvette.  June 2006.
Grandma with one of her eight great-grandchildren, my oldest son.  July 2009.

With her great-grandchildren.  July 2013.

Grandma and me

There were two songs that I've always associated my grandparents and my life with them as a child.  The first "Lord in the Morning", I noted in my tribute to my grandparents in my 2006 Influences series on this blog.  The other, "The Day Thou Gavest", usually sung at the end of the Sabbath seems to hold an added depth and meaning with grandma's passing.  The first verse is below, modified ever so slightly:

The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest
To Thee her morning hymns ascended
Thy praise shall hallow now her rest

Enid Agatha Yip Thomson
October 6, 1923-November 5, 2014