Thursday, January 19, 2012


When I admire the wonders of a sunset
or the beauty of the moon,
my soul expands in the worship of the creator.
~ M. Gandhi

“Well, isn’t that beautiful!” She exclaims with delight in her breathy, southern drawl. “That’s about the prettiest thing I think I’ve evah seen!” “She” being my grandmother, Catherine Mitchell Mason, and the “beautiful”? Well, that could be just about anything—from a strand of pearls to a handwritten note to a honey glazed ham on the table for Christmas dinner. To her, they’re all beautiful and something to be cherished.

Yet this is not the world view of one who knows little of hardship and struggle. She grew up picking peas with her sisters in the pea patch, a hot, bothersome task for any child. And when her mother passed away, at 13 my Grandmother took on chores typically reserved for the lady of the house. She lived through World War II then married my grandfather when he returned from Germany. They had their children and built a strong life together. Then later, she watched with horror as her beloved burned in a car explosion right before her eyes, an accident requiring multiple skin grafts and a very long recovery, but she lived it with him and helped nurse him back to health.

When she discovered she was pregnant in her early 50s, having been warned by her doctor that having the baby would cost her life, she bravely stood with my Grandfather before a panel of male physicians to present her case for terminating the pregnancy, a courageous act indeed since abortion was illegal back then and her religious beliefs kept her at odds with the whole idea. She’s had multiple open heart surgeries, necessitated by valve damage from an early case of Rheumatic Fever, and she’s overcome the debilitating effects of the strokes she suffered during those procedures, learning to read, write and speak all over again—not once but twice! She dedicated many years of her life as a hospice volunteer, sitting bedside and caring for those terminally ill patients struggling to find comfort in their final days. Yes ma’am, my Grandmother knows a little something about the dark side of life, yet she’s never wavered in expressing its beauty.

She’s always been that way, no matter what anyone ever did or said to her, through good and bad, better and worse, she finds a way to give thanks and praise for the beauty that surrounds her. Even today as she winds down her life, Grandma still finds beauty in the simple things. When I call her to say hello and maybe ask her what she had for lunch that day, she never fails to say, “Oh, you should have seen the slice of cake [ham, roast beef, tater tots] they served at lunch. It was the prettiest thing I’ve evah seen!”

We could all learn a little something from Grandma.