Today…had she lived…my grandma would have turned 100 years old. Some time over the summer, however, Grandma and Jesus must have had a conversation about where she wanted to celebrate this milestone. I think they agreed that Heaven would be the better place. (It always is, you know.) Even though she isn’t with us anymore (and with your indulgence, of course), I’d like to write a tribute to my grandma on her 100th birthday.

Grandma would have had a lot to say about running a simple life and home. Her mother died of diphtheria when she was 7, and she helped run the house and take care of her baby brother, Howard. (Remember that name. He shows up later in the post.) Her mother’s early death wasn’t the only tragedy Grandma faced. She also survived the Great Depression and later watched her husband die of cancer when he was only 48 years old. Grandma had never driven a car, but she learned quickly, went back to school to earn a teaching certificate, and taught first grade for 18 years.

This woman’s faith and determination are legendary, and I could tell all sorts of stories about how she relied on both to see her through some tough spots. My favorite stories about Grandma, however, are the travel stories. That, of course, and the time shortly after she and Grandpa moved into their own home. Uncle Howard and some buddies stole their outhouse on Halloween night, placed it beside the gas pumps at the local filling station, and attached a sign that read, “Herb Arnold’s. Fill ‘er up!” You gotta love this family’s sense of humor!

When Grandma was a young girl, however, her papa converted a bus into an RV and called it the “Hoosier Highway Home.” The summer before her sixth grade year, he decided to take the entire family on a westward tour, including a visit to Yellowstone National Park. When they arrived at the Mississippi River, Grandma and Aunt Mary went to find a restroom. While they were using the facilities, the ferry arrived and Grandpa boarded, leaving the two girls in the restroom…on accident, of course. You can imagine the girls’ surprise when they walked out to the ferry, only to see the rest of their family going on ahead of them!

Thankfully, a couple of fishermen took pity on the girls and offered them a trip across the river. Grandma and Aunt Mary were sure this was Grandpa’s idea of a practical joke. Believing he had paid the fishermen to take them across the river, the girls didn’t even thank their rescuers when they reached the other side! Despite this little snafu, the family went on to have a fantastic journey, and when Grandma returned home, she was anxious to tell her classmates about her adventures. Her teacher welcomed her back and told the class that Grandma had seen Old Faithful, a geyser that erupted every hour. Grandma interrupted her and said, “Oh, no. It erupts every 60 minutes!” (Grandma always was a stickler for details.) 🙂

My other favorite story about Grandma was the time when she, Mom, and I were traveling out east to see my cousin Sue graduate from college. We had pulled in to a rest stop along the way and were looking at a map in the lobby. On the map was an arrow pointing to the rest stop’s location on the highway, and next to it was a sign that said, “You are here.” Grandma took one look at that sign and said, “Well, how do they know where we are!”

Uncle Fred in particular thought this was so funny that when he saw a shirt showing the Milky Way with an arrow pointing to earth saying, “You are here,” he promptly bought it for her. Although I’m not sure she ever wore it, we all got a good laugh.

This past summer, on Friday, August 16, Grandma took another, final journey. Only this time, it wasn’t the Mississippi but the River Jordan that she crossed. And it wasn’t some random fisherman who took her by the hand; it was the Lord Jesus Christ, saying, “Come, Sarah. It’s time.” And she wasn’t just meeting up with her earthly family when she reached the other side, although I’m sure it was a great re-union. First, I believe she was met by her loving Heavenly Father, who wrapped his arms around her and said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Welcome home. You are here.”

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5 Responses to A Tribute to My Grandma on Her 100th Birthday

  1. Irene Stafford says:

    This is beautiful, Mary Jane. She would be very proud to think you wrote this about her. I have heard some of these stories. The whole family had a wonderful sense of humor. I miss them all!

  2. Jeff says:

    Happy Birthday, Grandma!

  3. Dick Stafford says:

    Nice tribute to my Aunt Sarah. Many fond memories.

  4. deanabaldauf says:

    I so enjoyed your blog today. I have many special memories of time spend with your Grandma as well as the rest of your family.

  5. Joy Andrews says:

    Beautiful tribute. I have many fond memories of your Grandma as well. I’m so glad you were able to share her with me. 🙂

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