Granny Ruth

My grandmother’s name was Ruth. I always thought she was the best grandmother in the world, but then, you probably thought the same thing.

Born in the Netherlands and reared in the Michigan, she bore all the stereotypical characteristics of her Dutch ancestry: obsessively clean, famously frugal, affectionately reserved, and religiously devout.

Whenever we visited I saw her and Grandpa enjoy coffee, read from the Bible and a devotional book, and pray together. Every single morning.

As an adult, I remember asking her, “Grandma, how many times have you read the Bible through?”

She said, “Oh, I don’t know. Our church had a campaign called Read it through in ’62. I’ve read it every year since then, but how many times before that, I can’t recall.”

I helped her wash dishes when I was five or six years old. She said, “Steve, say the books of the Bible for me.” When I told her I couldn’t, she was alarmed.

“Well then, we’d better get started. Three sets of books begin with the letter ‘T’: Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus. Can you say them? Good. They’re easy to remember because they are the only books in the whole Bible that start with T, and they’re found right after one another in the New Testament. Can you remember that?”

I’ve never forgotten it.

Shortly after our youngest child was born, we took him to her home in Prescott. She was 90 years old. She admired our family and grew wistful. “When your mother was born I was 39 years old. I never thought I’d live to see her children born, and now here I am holding her tenth grandson.”

Although still in excellent health, she knew her years were few. “I’ve been telling everyone to let me know what they want from me when I’m gone. What would you like?”

She had a plaque she had in her hallway when I was a child. The words on it were large and simple. I remember sounding it out as a young child and taking it to heart: “God’s way is the best way.”

I would often hear her repeat it to me. As an adult, it seemed she was saying it in my ear even when she wasn’t around, especially in those private moments when I was tempted to cut corners ethically, morally, or relationally.

I wondered if she still had it and said, “I’d like two things, if no one else has spoken for them. Do you remember that plaque that always hung in your hallway? It said, ‘God’s way is the best way.’ I always noticed it as a child, and now I think about it all the time. If you’ve still got it somewhere, I’d like that when you’re gone.

“The other thing I’d like is one of your old Bibles. They remind me of you more than anything else. I’d like that, too, if you don’t mind.”

She replied, “The plaque is hanging in my bedroom right now. I’d be glad for you to have it. Why don’t you take it when you leave?

“And as for the Bible, you may have that too. But not until I’m gone.” With a twinkle in her eye she said, “I still need it you know.”

Happy Mother’s Day.