Today is my grandmothers 100th birthday. If she was here today, I can guarantee she’d be celebrating with a half suprema tostada from Tony’s Jacal and a Negra Modelo. However, she’s not here. She passed away three years ago.
Jean Marie Beach was born on October 11, 1916. She was the oldest of ten children. She lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the time I thought bangs were a good look for me.
She was the epitome of a Proverbs 31 woman:
She is clothed in strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her;
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
One aspect of her life that many admired was her unwavering faith in God. As my uncle said at her funeral, “My mother was the closest thing to a real live saint that I will ever know.” She was admired by her children, grandchild, great grandchildren, and many friends and family.
I have part of Proverbs 31 hanging on my wall. Every morning I read it as I lay in bed not wanting to get up for the day. And every morning I think of the incredible women that embody Proverbs 31. I am so thankful my grandma was one of those women.
I still remember where I was when I found out she had passed away.
In 2013, I was a junior at the University of Dayton. I was living in the Theta Phi Alpha house with five sisters. It was the finals study period. I came downstairs and sat in the kitchen, talking to Brooke (my roommate/best friend), while I took a break from writing an essay. It was April 25, around 5 pm, and I had just remember to call my dad. It was his birthday.
“Happy Birthday, Dad!” I said rather loudly and cheerfully.
“Oh, thank you.” There was something in his voice that sounded off. I could tell he tried to mask it, but he didn’t do it very well.
There was a pause in the conversation; the sound of dinner cooking in the background seemed to fill the temporary void.
“Grandma Ashes died this morning.”
My heart dropped into my stomach and I immediately burst into tears. I was crying harder than I have ever cried in my life (and I’m considered the crier in the family). Everything my dad said after that was lost; I could not focus.
My sisters ran over to me, held me, and didn’t say a word.
I hung up the phone and ran straight for me bed. My other best friend, Dan, came over, crawled into my bed, and held me while I cried. Brooke and her boyfriend, Pickles, sat on the other bed in silence.
I was heartbroken. The woman I had looked up to my whole life — for her strength, her love, her faith — was gone. I was going home in a week and she wouldn’t be there.
It’s not easy losing a loved one. It’s even more difficult to lose someone you are significantly close to.
Every Saturday during high school and college, my dad and I would wake up early and drive to Cardiff-by-the-Sea. It’s a quaint little beach town. It’s known for homes squished together with killer views of the ocean. It’s also home of VGs Bakery.
We would pick up the same order every week: two Devils food, one chocolate glazed, one cinnamon Danish, and one pecan sticky bun.
Then we’d drive down the street into Solana Beach where my grandma lived. There we would spend our morning eating baked goods and drinking coffee while reading the newspaper or staring out the window at my grandmas garden that had seen better days.
I lived for Saturday. Not because I was a teenager who had a love/hate relationship with Monday thru Friday, but because spending time with my grandma gave me such great joy.
She used to tell me about her childhood, her siblings, my dad and his siblings as children, and so on. I especially loved hearing about my grandpa, Papa Bill. He had passed away in 2002, just six days before my 10th birthday.
She was an incredible woman that I will never forget. Although, it’s a little difficult to forget a woman whose face I see every day. I have a painting of her and Papa Bill hanging in my apartment. This may sound corny, but sometimes I talk to them, just like I talk to Jesus. I tell them about my day and ask them to pray for certain things to happen in my life. It makes me feel like they’re still here with me.
But those who leave this earthly world never truly leave. As long as we keep them in our hearts, their legacy lives on forever.
Grandma, I hope you’re having a massive party in Heaven with everyone. Have a beer for me! I love you!
Little Mary Elizabeth