In the past several years, we’ve been talking at church about the “Power of Blessing”, and the importance of a parent passing that on to their child. Certainly we were blessed by many sources growing up, and this past week we said goodbye to a woman who understood how to bless quite well. Dorothy Thula Sutton was born in August, 1917, and raised a family down in Tennessee after marrying Frank E. Bowles. They became the “Great-Grandparents” everyone wishes they had. Southern accents, southern cooking, and love that had been richly steeped in southern hospitality.
I have flashes of memory from growing up with my Great-Grandma Bowles. I remember her frail grandma-strength hugs, and southern drawl that made every word she said entertaining to listen to. The stories, both short and long, about what life was like. About things I understood, and about things I had no clue of. The reminders to pray. To love Jesus. To thank God. The long lines of card-tables set up for extended-family gatherings in their basement. I remember being that boy who stared in awe at the amount of money in my Christmas cards, and the humble loving reminder that came with the crisp $5 bill in every birthday card. I remember her pride as I performed at community theater events. I remember the Christmas bags of goodies that always came with Bubbliscious, Chocolate-Covered Marshmallow Snowmen, and some large fresh fruit anchoring it all down.
But most of all, I remember her steadfast presence in love in the midst of family chaos. When walls were coming down all around, and relationships were stretched thin, there our Great-Grandparents were. Humbly admitting they didn’t know all the details on everything that was happening, but that they loved us….and wanted the best for us. That they were proud of us. Reminding us that God was still God….and Jesus was still with us.
Even as I grew older, moved away to college, and into adulthood…those cards and reminders of their love came, and began to come to my wife and children as well. (Although I still smile as I remember the “quote marks” on either side of my name….as if it were a nick-name. My guess is the pen was held by grandma…but no doubt at grandpas approving southern-sounding nod.) Never requiring anything (but appreciating a 5-minute phone-call “Thanks”…and giving us the real gift – a reminder that they pray for us regularly), every birthday was celebrated with another crisp $5 bill. In my mind and heart…those cards will always continue to come. Our oldest daughter received hers 2 days ago….a couple days after Grandma passed. The love signed to that card was one of the last things Grandma passed on before joining Grandpa with Jesus.
I’m thankful for the stories, both known and unknown. The ones that will be told as family gathers to mourn and celebrate a life well and faithfully lived…and the ones that will be told as we remember them in gatherings in the future. But most of all, I’m thankful to be a part of the story she helped pen….the story that we continue to write in our family even now….