Grandma Smith with Helyers
This photo was taken February 2014, the last time I saw my grandma alive. I’m sure she wished she was dressed in something other than her nightgown, but I love this picture nonetheless. From left to right: my mom Joyce (grandma’s daughter), my brother Nate, Grandma, me, and my dad Larry.

Doris Elizabeth Smith, October 19, 1922-June 24, 2016

A little over a week ago I received an early-morning text from my mom informing me that Grandma passed. My mom and dad were headed to the airport when they received the news. The rollercoaster of my grandma’s declining health over the past three years ended. While the news didn’t come as a surprise, it was still hard to hear. She was my last living grandparent. As a 45-year-old woman, I felt somewhat spoiled to still have a living grandparent. Many of my friends don’t.

Throughout the past week, I have tried to recall memories of her and her home. I have a few memories from the Brea house that she and my grandpa owned for a number of years before they retired to Porterville, CA. I remember a Christmas where my cousins and I reenacted the Christmas story, using bath towels as robes and head coverings. I remember playing croquet at family gatherings. I remember a tall tree in the backyard that my brother climbed and then was unable to climb back down by himself, requiring rescue from an older cousin.

However, most of my childhood memories take place on the farm in Porterville. For a young girl, the smells, the sounds, and the sights of this place delighted. The backyard housed a red barn filled with canning jars, my grandpa’s plumbing tools, an old chest freezer, feed for the farm animals, and an assortment of odds and ends that my grandpa collected over the years. The wooden barn floor was worn from age and use. The smell of oats, leather, tobacco, and rotting wood filled my nose every time I walked inside. I loved the barn and exploring its nooks and crannies.

Fruit and nut trees lined the perimeter of my grandparent’s backyard. From these trees, came all manner of jams, jellies, and other edible treats. My grandma was an excellent cook. Even during her funeral, her daughters and grandchildren recalled some of their favorite dishes she made. Well before “cooking from scratch” was in vogue, Grandma made it all from her two hands.

I never knew my grandma to be idle (This trait has faithfully been passed along to her three daughters too!). Perhaps that was why her final years were so difficult. She didn’t want to lay in bed all day. Just days before her death, she told my aunt that she wanted to get out of bed and get dressed. At family dinners, if anyone needed anything refilled, she was the first to jump up from the table to help. When she did sit down, her hands remained busy as she crocheted blankets and other items. From gardening to sewing to staining wood furniture, she pursued a variety of interests throughout her life.

My grandma was an easy person to be around. She laughed often and she kept her sense of humor even in her final days. She joked with my mom on occasion about wanting to look good for the male nurses at the facility where she lived. My grandma wasn’t vain, but she did care about her appearance. On the day of her funeral, I met my grandma’s hairdresser. My grandma had a standing appointment with Audrey on Fridays at 11:00 am to have her hair done. She wore lipstick and painted her fingernails. She always looked put together.

Most importantly, she trusted Jesus as her Savior. Throughout her life, her faith in God would serve as an anchor, even during the hard times. She walked a road no parent wishes and buried her 44-year-old son. Both of my grandparents walked alongside their son during his 11-year struggle with AIDS. In 2005, she buried her husband of 65 years. When I last saw her in February 2014, she told me she was ready to go home. She said, “I don’t know why the Lord keeps me around, but He knows my time.”

On June 24, the Lord did call Grandma home. She was ready.

“A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30


4 thoughts

  1. Alicia, thank you for sharing your memories of Grandma in this beautiful way. I think you captured so well how she lived her life. My heart was blessed and filled with thankfulness for my dear mother. It was so good to have you and Nate with us to share in our grief and to celebrate together Mom’s life.


  2. Grandmothers are such influencers, shapers, and unfailing-love-ers. I loved both of mine very much. Paternal Nana Florence Wilson, a bit regal and reserved, died when I was in Grade 4; maternal Grandma Agnes Reid, called Nessie, with her Scottish accent still in intact, when I was 25’ish. I look back at my Grandma’s “promotion to Glory” as the point at which I reluctantly became an adult (yes, at 25!) – the first time a death was a real and painful loss to my heart, and I was forever changed by the sorrows that time brings to all of us. What lovely, strong women they both were to me. Grandmothers are a blessing!

    Liked by 1 person

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