Last year my 103-year-old grandmother died. Born in the last century, Nana learned at an early age to cook, clean, sew, and take care of children. These skills came in handy for she would eventually marry twice, have 12 children, and raise six to adulthood. Nana experienced many trials, much sadness, and tremendous joy during her long life but possessed a strong faith in the Lord. A quiet woman, she expressed her faith and life views in embroidered samplers.
I have vivid memories of Nana in her blue and white Victorian house while growing up in the 50’s. The gray, wooden front steps led to a wrap-around porch with two swings, several rockers, a glider, and two wicker chairs. In the summer, several baskets of Boston ivy decorated the gingerbread trim. A green-leafed sampler hung beside the front door that read, As for me and my house we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).
The parlor wall held a red and blue sampler which read, May the love in this home bless all who enter. Nana loved to have family and friends visit. She canned vegetables, fruits, jams, baked pies, cookies and other eatables until well past the age of 80.
I used to wonder if people came to see Nana or receive her delicious treats. One thing for sure, you never left Nana’s house without sampling one of her goodies. On their way out, visitors saw a flowered sampler beside the front door that read, May the Lord bless and keep You.
Nana lost six children; four died in infancy, one at age 16, and one at age 25. She embroidered an angel sampler for each lost child with their name, date of birth, and death. These hung together in a rarely used third story bedroom.
At the age of ten, I asked her why she made them. She stooped to my level, looked at me with light blue eyes, and with a finger pointing upward said, “Nancy, I embroidered each one to help me get through the grief and to remind me they are waiting for me in heaven.”
A beautiful woman in her youth, Nana married my grandfather at the age of 18. A pretty pink, green, and blue sampler with two embroidered hearts hung above her bed and read, Two hearts brought together in love, Eva and Daniel, June 22, 1925. They were married for 52 years until grandpa died of a heart attack at age 72.
Nana fell in love again at the age of 75; she married a childhood friend. Unfortunately, the marriage only lasted two years until he died of pneumonia. A blue and white sampler with his name, date of their marriage and his death, hung on a wall outside her bedroom.
My favorite sampler, which Nana gave me for a college graduation gift, is the first one she embroidered. Her grandmother taught her at age ten, after she trusted Christ as her Savior. Many of the threads are loose and the letters crooked but you can read her name, the date, and the words, O Lord thy grace divine impart and let my Bible be a guardian angel to my heart to lead my soul to thee. It hangs beside my bed.
Nana continued to embroider her samplers until age 90. We had a fabulous birthday party for her. The entire family attended plus her neighbors and church family.
After everyone left, she said, “Nancy, I can’t use the needle anymore because of arthritis in my fingers. This is my last sampler.”
The needlework measured 14 inches square with a decorative border, a cross, and letters in red, blue, green, yellow, gold, purple, and pink. It read, Friends nor physicians cannot save my mortal body from the grave nor shall the grave define me there when Christ commands me to appear.
“Nana, this one is different than the rest. It sounds a little morbid. Are you alright?” I asked with a frown.
“I’m fine but you have to be realistic. Christ could call me home at any time. The words are very appropriate for someone my age. It will hang above my bed.”
Six months later Nana began to lose things, forget family names, and wander outdoors pleading with the neighbors to “help me.” Her physician made a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. I took care of her until her death. Nana died in her sleep one early spring morning. Christ had called her home.
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