Cheryl Glassman: Grandma Pauline’s presence still being felt
As I write this column, I smile, for I am writing on my daughter Sarah’s birthday. Being a mother is something we cannot truly prepare for. Oh, sure, we buy clothes, and diapers, and cribs, and receive tons of advice. But the moment that young, helpless, beautiful (all babies are) child is placed into a mother’s arms, life takes on new meaning. It is no longer just about you, the individual. What gets a new mom to that point besides instinct?
We all have someone, a motherly person, who has influenced our direction, whose presence sticks with us and shows us things, long before we even realize it. A statement I once heard by professional basketball player and coach Lisa Leslie rings true: “(A) mother was my role model before I even knew what that was.
A spiritual guide for me was my grandmother Pauline.
Grandma Pauline was a saint on earth. In the middle of the Dust Bowl, she cared for her four children, cooked (made the greatest fried chicken and green beans I’ve had to this day), helped my grandfather on the farm, and taught school.
She played piano for silent movies. She sang with the Methodist choir. Everything she did created joy and life in those around her. Visiting her was the very best. Everyone wanted to be the one standing in front, knocking on the door, because when it opened, Grandma’s face lit up with an aura I have yet been able to find words to describe.
The best part? Her arms held out wide, and she would take one step forward, and you would literally melt into her embrace. We would sing as she played piano, eat vanilla cream cookies, and visit. No matter what bad thing might have happened before seeing Grandma, it didn’t hurt anymore once she hugged you, kissed your cheek, and squeezed your hand tight.
She never talked about her own problems, and always wanted to know about our daily lives. She would straighten with pride to hear how one of us got an “A” on a paper or played at a church service. Her love for Christ flowed from her as well. Her tattered Bible was always next to her, and several pages were bent. She would have tears in her eyes as she played her favorite old hymns.
One time when I was about 10, I asked Grandma why she was crying as we listened to “The Old Rugged Cross.” I will never forget her answer. “Sweetheart, close your eyes and listen with your heart.” Grandma took a deep breath, and we all closed our eyes. Grandma then said, “Can you see him? When I play, listen to, or sing a hymn, I see Jesus. He sings with me.”
Grandma’s “next-to-Godliness” stuck with me as I grew into my teen years, and although I tried to run from serving him several times, Grandma’s smile or presence was there. I would be remiss if I did not tell you I ask her for help to this day.
I remember a day a few years ago. I was searching for a piece of music for a funeral. I could not find it anywhere. I had called several music friends. No one had it. One thing I try to do is, if a family would like a specific song, I will do what I can to find it. This time, things were not going well. This was before the Internet and Google. Having exhausted what I thought was every possibility, I said (out loud), “OK, Grandma. I know you would have this song.”
Not more than a few seconds later the phone rang. It was friend and musician Renee Michaud. We talked about an upcoming event. Then Renee said, “I would like to use (the song I was looking for; I cannot remember the title).” Renee had the song. I looked upward and smiled.
Grandma Pauline’s love of life and faith live on in me today. When I think of her, I think of Luke 2:51, “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.” Happy Mother’s Day to all.
Cheryl Glassman is the Minister of Music at St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church in Hays.