Mother’s Day stirred up a favourite memory from my childhood: going on the Horseshoe Bay Ferry over to the Sunshine Coast, where my Grandma always served us freshly baked, hot apple pie. Grandma Hird baked some of the tastiest apple pies that I’ve ever eaten. But she always apologized about her apple pies, saying that the pastry didn’t turn out just right, or that she hadn’t baked enough pies for us. Our family usually needed to go on a diet for three weeks, just to recover from a weekend of Grandma Hird’s delicious cooking! Grandma always would tell us how fortunate she was to have such wonderful neighbours. She would comment on how caring and friendly they were to her. Whoever you were, Grandma Hird always made you feel special. With such a gift of hospitality, it was no wonder that so many young children in the neighbourhood ‘adopted’ her as their own grandma.
Even though she couldn’t read a note of music, Grandma Olive was an excellent pianist. As her eyesight became worse and she went into a care facility, her greatest regret was that she couldn’t play the piano any more, or bake apple pies for us. Grandma was such a loving person that she loved to give generously to others, and it hurt when she couldn’t. When my family and I would visit Grandma in the nursing home, she used to give our 3 boys money to go to MacDonald’s. She’d say: “I so miss not being able to cook apple pies for you, like when Grandpa was alive.” Grandma Hird really missed her husband since he’d passed away.
Grandma Olive didn’t have an easy life. She had to quit school at age 15 to look after her 3 younger brothers. Her mother, who was an Ensign in the Salvation Army and knew William & Catherine Booth personally, had died suddenly in the 1918 flu epidemic. Her father was away overseas at war. So Grandma Olive had to function as “the mother” to her younger brothers for the next six years until her father remarried. She had a tough time understanding why such a wonderful woman as her mother would be taken from her. But she never stopped trusting that she would meet her Mom some day in heaven. Years later, when my Grandma’s sight was going, she gave me her mother’s bible. I have always treasured this gift, as it includes some actual sermons and poems written by her mom. ‘The cross is a mystery’, wrote her mother, ‘until you take it up.’ Grandma Olive knew from personal experience that being a mother often involves taking up unexpected crosses in one’s life.
When Grandma Olive died in 1990, I had the unique privilege of taking her funeral service. It was a hard thing to do, but also very meaningful. Years later, I give thanks for what a loving, gracious grandmother she was to me. When I wonder why my father learned to respect women, I know that it came from his deep respect for his mother Olive who totally devoted her life to her family. I firmly believe that much of my father’s self-confidence as an adult came from the unshakable conviction that he was unconditionally loved by his mother. As Grandma Olive was gradually dying, her Doctor often visited her. He said that she was a majestic lady, and that whenever he came to see her, he went away feeling better. Even in the last stages of death, Grandma Olive had the ability to comfort and calm those around her.
I will always remember the last private communion service that I had with Grandma Olive, a week before she died.. She participated very intensely in the service, although greatly weakened physically. As I spoke of Jesus’ loving death for us, she nodded her head continually and then said: “I’m ready to go. I want to be with Grandpa, my parents, and my friends.” One of her last few words were: “I am so fortunate. I have such a good family and friends”. Then she said, “I love you very much.” Grandma Olive was not afraid to die, because she believed in the truth of Easter. Grandma knew that love was stronger than death. This Mother’s Day, I want to thank God for all the mothers, like Grandma Olive, who unselfishly devote their lives to their families.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News
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