My Grandma Fossey was the most joyful person I’ve ever known.
She was always merry, kind, and generous. I don’t recall ever hearing her say an unkind word about anyone; she was the Queen of thinking the best of everyone. It seemed she always had a word of encouragement appropriate to the situation at hand, confident that things would turn out for the best. Her strong faith in God and His goodness never seemed to waver.
It didn’t occur to me as a child that this was particularly astonishing, but as I grew into adulthood and faced challenges of my own, I found that my own default mode in times of real difficulty was worry, anxiety, fear and depression. I gradually realized that Grandma was in a class of her own, especially considering the fact that her life challenges were significant by anyone’s standards.
Grandma lost her own mother at birth, and her father gave her to an aunt to raise. There she grew on the farm, rarely seeing her father. Later, Grandma married a man who was unhappy, angry and abusive. When an accident rendered him unable to help provide for the family, she worked even harder. She cleaned houses and businesses and washed laundry and did odd jobs to put food on the table for five children. They were poor–very poor–and lived in the tiniest little trailer. Those kids were raised on beans and grace and hand-me-downs. Poor they were, but Grandma still gave generously of what she had: apricots from the tree, flowers from the garden, homemade rolls. I love the story of the year the church was gathering donations for baskets for the needy at the holidays. Grandma insisted on contributing, only to discover they were collecting food for her family!
Grandma loved pink and purple, high-heeled shoes and FLOWERS! She always planted wherever they lived, in their tiny trailer parks. When I first started keeping house plants as a teen, to Grandma I went for guidance on how to care for African Violets. Grandma loved flowers of all kinds, but I particularly remember purple irises, purple and pink petunias overflowing baskets, roses and violets: African violets, pansies, tri-color violas. I always plant violets everywhere we go; their purple jauntiness makes me think of her.
Once, after a particularly hard winter in Alaska, I came out my door and noticed a bunch of cheerful violas peeking through the snow. Immediately, I thought of Grandma. How like her! Cheerfully, tenaciously battling through the cold, pushing to the sun and blooming, encouraging me after a dark winter.
Oh, how I long to be this person! To always see the good, no matter how ugly things may appear. To have stalwart faith when life seems so broken. To push through the cold, the hard, the bitter and bloom and encourage those who pass by.
Like violets in the snow.
Like my Grandma Fossey.