My Grandma Sue Snyder Hershey, pictured on the left below, looked like this when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. My widowed great-grandmother, her mother, stands like the prow of a ship in front of her four adult children.
I thought a lot about my grandmothers and great-grandmother as I was writing The Mindful Grandparent. Here’s how I described Grandma Hershey in Chapter Three of the book:
“a kind, patient, loving woman of ample bosom and skillful hands. She made afghans for the grandchildren and comforters at the sewing circle. She was a comforter.”
Or else they take over another space like this one:
I find that when I get overwhelmed with a situation that seems imaginably hopeless, the best thing for me is to DO SOMETHING! This project provided the opportunity for me to DO that I so needed. Every initiative needs a good leader, and I very much appreciated how Phyllis had the idea and then followed through with it.
Gloria Rutt was by Phyllis’s side the whole way, and the rest of us came whenever we could. Sixteen people were involved so far, and the group may expand. When the project is finished, we will have completed seven comforters. These will be distributed by the Mennonite Central Committee — headquartered a few miles away — trusted experts on international disaster and war relief.
In addition to the skill sets of finding fabric, cutting and sewing it accurately, assembling the patterns in the right order, and then knotting all the layers together, each woman cared about making something beautiful. All that a comforter needs in order to be warm is to stay together. But in order to warm the heart, it must be beautiful. We were very aware of trying to do our best work and trying to find the best colors for making an impact of hope. As we worked, we talked about our grandmothers often.
One of the members of The Mindful Grandparent launch team, Carolyn Dirksen, wrote these words on Facebook:
I can darn, patch, and mend. I can hem and do embroidery without knots so the back is as pretty as the front. I can stretch a food budget with healthy meatless meals, and lengthen a dress by adding hem tape so it will fit for one more season. I have good penmanship, I love to read, and I am endlessly engaged with the power of words. I learned all that from my grandmother who cared for me while my widowed mother worked to support the family.
I am ashamed to admit that even though I learned to darn, patch, mend, hem, etc., I never went to the monthly “sewing” at my church after going with my grandmother a few times. I focused instead on the power of words, my mother’s gift. As an adult, I was intent upon breaking into a new world of higher education and was less focused on the domestic skills my grandmother cherished.
As I zipped through the colorful seams during our “comforter blitz” a few weeks ago, I thought of Grandma Hershey often. How she expressed her love by working with her hands. How carefully she measured, straight pins in her mouth, as she pinned a skirt hem. How patient she was as she crocheted even stitches. How cheerfully she labored on behalf of others, whether it was her dreamy granddaughter with a book in her hand, or a refugee in a foreign land. She understood that love can be tangible, and she devoted her life to producing gifts — children, gardens, meals, quilts, clothing, comforters. All of these to her were all part of being connected to a Creator God.
Grandma Hershey would understand what it means to be “the work of your hand.” She would care about suffering, whether in front of her or across the ocean, and she would spread comfort with beauty and love.
Have you found ways to contribute to the needs in Ukraine and other countries where refugees are fleeing? What gifts did your grandmother give you and how have you shared them?