It has been a difficult week at our house as our family has lost a beloved member. My grandmother, Elizabeth Sorchilla, passed away last week at the age of 96.
She never had much education, but you certainly couldn't put anything past her. Born in 1912, she was second oldest of we think ten children--no one is quite sure how many there were as some did not survive past infancy. Her mother recognized early on that she had strength and character. She would keep her home from school to help with her younger brothers and sisters. When the truancy officers would get after my great grandmother, she would send her to school for awhile but would inevitably keep her home again. She never made it past elementary school.
Her education was the world in which she lived. She grew up through World War I, survived the Great Depression, and was a young wife and mother during World War II. She raised her children through the prosperous '50s and the turbulent '60s. She watched her grandchildren grow up in the '70s and '80s, and was a great grandmother in the '90s. She was the 20th century personified.
Her generation was not raised to show affection through words, but she expressed it through actions. The wonderful family dinners on Sundays, generous gifts on special occasions, and taking a grandchild or two to visit relatives and stopping for ice cream on the way home were the ways she showed love for her family.
She was also raised to believe the man was the head of the house, but we all knew differently. Once when my grandfather was fixing something in the basement, he hit his thumb with a hammer. A stream of obscenities rose up to the first floor. My grandmother marched over to the top of the stairs, yelled down, "If you don't stop that swearing I'm going to come down there and hit you over the head with that hammer!" and slammed the door. Not another word was heard from the basement.
Her faith in God was always unwavering. She would pray for everyone--family, friends, neighbors, people she heard about on the news. And she was honest to the core. My sister tells a story of going to the mall with my aunt and grandmother. My grandmother needed to purchase paper plates on one end of the mall, and my aunt was picking up her wedding gown at the other end. When my grandmother reached the bridal shop, she realized the she had walked out of the store without paying for the paper plates. She walked back to other end of the mall so fast that her younger companions could not keep up with her. To this day, my sister cannot believe that someone in their seventies could move that fast.
She was probably the most stubborn person I have ever known. If she did not want to do something, she was not going to budge. If she had an opinion, you knew it. But her determination would serve her well late in life. Widowed in 1987 and losing her eyesight to glaucoma, she refused to surrender her independence and remained in the house where she raised her family. And she stayed there until she entered the hospital shortly before she died.
I am convinced that the prospect of losing that precious independence was what led her to finally let go. Her worsening eyesight made it impossible for her to continue to live on her own, and plans were being made to place her in a nursing home. And she knew when the end was near. Her final words were ones that no one in the family had ever heard her say: "I love you all."
I am hoping I can learn some valuable lessons from this one amazing woman with this one amazing life. Find courage in whatever situation you are placed, stick to your guns, trust in the Lord, and let those you love know how you feel before it is too late.
We love you too, Grandma.