Gwen was spirited. She would do anything, especially for her grandchildren. When my sister and I were young we spent almost every friday night with her and pudgy. They would rearrange and roll over furniture, create makeshift costumes, cook anything we wanted, and we laughed. We laughed SO much. We laughed loud and hard, more than anything else. Those memories make me cry hard now, with joy. What wonderful times...
Gwen was loyal and strong. Those memories of pudgy and gwen together, are few...for the love of her life died when I was 9 years old. Suddenly. It the first time I saw my daddy weep. It was a difficult time for our family. And this past Thursday night she was still wearing his rings. For 23 years we asked her if she was lonely, for 23 years men asked her out in vain, and for 23 years she gave us all the same answer with a twinkle in her eye, "He was the only one for me." What a testament to love... I think it's beautiful. I am no fool. I know that their love wasn't perfect, no earthly love is. But I have the capacity to love that way, and I'm grateful. I like to think that I got it from her. I hope that God gives me someone to be devoted to for a lifetime. She proved to me the value and fulfillment of such a love.
Gwen was unapologetically, appropriately, a disciplinarian. I hope that Ethan doesn't mind, because his famous story is the best example of this one. Ethan is her 4th grandchild, the first boy. She kept him and his sister. One day, when he was elementary age, Gwen happened upon him hiding under her breakfast nook table pretending to smoke a cigarette. (No one in our family even smokes, he just is too much like me, and has moments of wild hairs he has to get out...) She placed one hand on the table, leaned down to look under at him and said, "Ethan, God can see you under there." His reponse is our family joke, "I ain't hiding from God, Gwen, I'm hiding from you!" HA! He was more afraid of her! He knew what we all knew-she expected our best. Our best for her and our best ultimately for our Lord, because of Jesus' sacrifice for us. She told us, she taught us, she lived it...and now we are all who we are, because of it. What a heritage.
Gwen was loving. She loved her family. NO MATTER WHAT. She was the kind of matriarch that had a way of making each one of us feel special. She was short and small framed, but she held us, in her lap, regardless of our age (or our size!). It brought her so much joy to see us together: around the table every sunday, in the pool all summer long, at the foot of the tree each Christmas.... And the more the merrier. She was the kind of woman who would add another plate at the very last minute, who insisted there was always plenty of food, and would sit at the kid table so that our guest could sit at the "big table." I can see her sitting with us now, laughing, looking around. Proud as a peacock just to have us all together. Family was her life. She respected and even encouraged the differences in our personality, and she loved us all the same amount. And we all knew it. I knew it personally. She has listened to me for 10 years. I know I talk to much, but she never, once, looked irritated or annoyed. I know I repeated myself, but she just listened and let me. Supported me when no one else was. When I didn't deserve it. Treated me the same even when I was making blatant, horrible life choices. Telling me that everything, somehow, would be okay, even if it might not. If I knew anything, I knew love.
Even in her last days, her concern was not for herself, but for us. We each were blessed to have time alone with her, next to her. She said things to make sure that we were okay with what was happening... and every time we left her again, she said, "i love you. i love you SO much."
Gwen was faithful. I will never, as long as I live, forget the evidence of her faith in her last days. The day in the hospital we had a wonderful time with her. She talked aloud to God in front of us. "Thank you for my life, Lord. I'm so blessed." She thanked him for her husband, for her children, for her wonderful family and she said, “I’m ready, Lord, I’m ready!” then she burst into song, “Praise ye the Lord, Halellujah! I’m singing y’all, I’m singing to my Lord!” which was a hoot, frankly, because even though she raised a room full of musicians, she couldn't carry a tune. The night before she died she told my daddy, "Hallelujah. All my children say Hallelujah!"
Galatians 2:20 says it best...The life she lived in her body, she lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved her and gave himself for her.
Praise His Name!