Thursday, January 13, 2011


When I was growing up we did not have the conveniences of today. We couldn't communicate by computer, we had no digital cameras and phone calls were expensive. So I didn't see my Grandma Giesbrecht often but she was indelibly in my heart and soul. In many ways I think that my personality is a lot like hers. I wrote a poem about my grandma that popped into my head one night. I am not a poet but for some reason lately words have just run through my head late at night until I make myself write them down. I thought before I share the poem I would tell you a little bit about her.

Keep in mind, these are my memories, other cousins and relatives may have different memories, although I think that each of us will agree on a few of my thoughts. Today if you are reading and not part of my family you may decide to move on with your day and miss this blog. That is OK! Of course, it may also bring to mind your grandma or a loved one who has passed on and give you a few moments to reflect on them.

I don't ever remember my grandma getting angry with me, not once. I don't ever remember her being mean, harsh or scared around her. I do always remember her gentle smile and soft laugh. I remember hugs and a kiss on the top of my head or cheek, but always with love. She never forced herself on us, she was just there. We didn't get to see Grandma a lot since we lived on Vancouver Island, BC and they either lived in Alberta or Saskatchewan... They moved a few times. I do know that they lived close by when I was a baby but of course I don't remember that.

Grandma had 8 children and my dad was the oldest and a boy. I know life was hard for him, they were poor, lived on the prairies and he was born at the beginning of the war. They lived in a Mennonite community and there were strict rules and expectations. It was not an idyllic lifestyle and Grandma was a typical Mennonite woman. She was quiet, subservient and obeyed the church laws and her father, then her husband's demands. That is what women did. Women were not given much education if any and married young. 

My Grandma had all her babies at home I believe and my dad tells me that for some of them he was sent off to get someone to assist with the birth. She gave birth to 5 boys and 3 girls. Being the oldest dad had to leave school in Grade 7 to help on the farm and I think he left home by about age 16 as did most of his siblings. Boys were able to leave home for work and the only way girls could leave was marriage. Ah, life was different then! We, her grandchildren are so fortunate to have been born in a time where we can finish school, there are more laws to help women and children and we can choose how we want to live our lives.

As a mother now of a 16 year old girl, I can't imagine what it was like for Grandma to see her children leave, so young, one by one. I suppose in some ways it was a relief, one less mouth to feed, in other ways it was sad because it was possible she would never see them again. Mailing letters was expensive and they did not always have a phone. I know she always wanted better for them than she had, nevertheless, she gave them the best that she could and although Grandma was a quiet woman of few words, you could see the love in her eyes.

Fast forward to my life... We saw Grandma and Grandpa at least every two years. When I was about 10 years old, Grandpa was stricken with cancer in his early 60's. He passed away when I was 11 and we kids were not taken to the funeral so we didn't see Grandma then. I know that she loved Grandpa, even though life was hard and she didn't get to have much fun. Grandma buried two husbands and 3 children and suffered a lot of grief in her life. I do know that Grandma figured out how to have fun later in life though!

When she was on her own, life became simpler. She did not have to care for anyone, she had a small pension and lived in seniors housing. She had friends, got to go visiting, attend church (no longer an active Mennonite), go to bingo and even take bus trips to Reno of all places! Grandma was always on the go after that! She did remarry at one point however, that only lasted a few years as he passed away. Then she picked right up where she left off! 

Nothing stopped my Grandma until she was about 88 and during the winter she sadly suffered from several strokes. She was not expected to come through it, she did! My Grandma wasn't done yet! Although she never regained her full mobility she did recover. She was a miracle! We were all so happy and amazed to see that by the next fall she was busy and moving around again. She no longer took the bus trips or lived on her own, but she simulated well into an assisted living complex and had her own "apartment/room". We would visit her there and she was so proud to show us off, her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

In 2007, Grandma was to turn 90 years old. As a family we decided to have a reunion in the summer, a few months shy of her birthday and celebrate her 90 years early. It was wonderful! So many people came and stayed and we got together at the community centre over three days to share meals. On the Saturday, we had a party. We had a big feast and decorated the hall. Cousin to cousin, sibling to sibling, everyone who could was there. Grandma looked so beautiful and so happy. We took pictures of her with her remaining sisters and pictures with Grandma and her surviving children. I was told this was her first ever birthday party!

I guess we knew in our hearts it was probably the last time we would all be together with her. I kept saying, "Nah! Grandma, I am going to be here for your 95th!", she just smiled and laughed quietly and called me Sally. (That was my old family name and no one EXCEPT Grandma had called me that since I was 10, but she was allowed.) 

In January, 2008, just 2 months after she turned 90, Grandma took her last breath. I know that she died at peace, I felt it in her. In the last few years she made an effort to call her grandchildren and chat with us. Grandma never tried to make us feel guilty if we were busy, couldn't chat long or didn't get to see her enough even when it was possible. She was so thoughtful that way, she appreciated the moment she was in and did not dwell on the negative, at least not that I could see. When I suffered in my life, she was there for me. 

My youngest and my Grandma share the same birthday, November 20th, only it is 85 years apart. At least two other grandchildren have been named after her. I know my Grandma loved me, it was in her smiles, her hugs, her food and her beautiful eyes. I hope that my future grandchildren will have memories of me, like I have of her. This month it will be three years since she died and I just wanted to honour her, remember her.... Love Sarah XOXOXO

Rest in Peace, You have ALWAYS been my Grandma Giesbrecht.

My Grandma

Grandma was beautiful
In her own way
I knew she was sad
She had grief in her heart
I never knew why
But I know that she loved me
Up ‘til the day she died

Grandma was beautiful
In her own way
She raised eight children
She was brave and strong
No electricity or perks
Farm life was tough
She survived it for so long

My grandma was beautiful
In her own way
I knew that she loved me
Even though we didn’t say
The words I love you
Never came from her lips
But the joy in her eyes
Was enough of a gift

My grandma was beautiful
In her own way
The food that she cooked us
Tasted beyond compare
Mennonite sausage, Perogies homemade
Handcrafted noodles
Hung from the rafters all day
The smells were delightful
All the family would say

My grandma was beautiful
In her own way
That’s why it’s so special
My baby shared her birthday
She reached out to me
When my life fell apart
That’s when I knew
I was always in her heart

My grandma was beautiful
In her own way
Thank you Grandma
You always reached out to us
Your delight was so clear
You seemed so elated
To have us all near
For your 90th birthday
It was such an event

My grandma was beautiful
In her own way
We thank her for blessing us
With the light in her eyes
She will always be missed
In this family she was
The matriarch, the strength
A woman of substance


Sarah Sherman said...

From Chad G: Good job Sally. That was a great tribute to Grandma.

Sarah Sherman said...

From Crystal G: Sarah... it's very nice. I wish that I would have gotten a chance to know her better than I did. I don't have nearly the memories that you do.

Crystal, we all got to know her in our own way and I know that every grandchild was special to her. Knowing grandparents now, I realize how much it took for Grandma to remember who everyone was and who they came from! :) She did it though! That always impressed me!

Sarah Sherman said...

From Karen G: thanks sarah, you know I don't do facebook, but I have read your blog and feel close to you even though we never talk. That was very sweet and true what you wrote about your Grandma. I read it to Uncle Peter, he was touched too, thanks again.

Me: I am glad you read it to Uncle Peter and glad you enjoy the blog. I think it is all very cathartic for me! I have so much to say and I am trying to find the right format. Take care both of you.. Now you get to be the Grandma Giesbrecht too! :)

Sarah Sherman said...

From Leah R: Thank you sarah,.. I was thinking of her today too, She was a stong women,..and yes, she always knew who we were and who we belonged to,...she even reconised my voice on the phone every time I called her. rest in peace gramma I love you!

Sarah Sherman said...

From Angela G: Sarah, that was really beautiful! It brought a tear (or ten) to my eyes, I had to close my office door! Our Grandma was truly the kindest, gentlest person I've ever known, and we were lucky to have her in our lives. Thanks again for our family reunion, it was very My Dad was the only one born in a hospital. Just lucky though, they lived very close to Saskatoon at the time :)

Sarah Sherman said...

From Dorain S: Thanks for sharing Sarah. Both the story and poem were beautiful! I am so glad we were able to attend the reunion even if just for a short while!

Sarah Sherman said...

From Sandra H.: beautiful tribute to your Grandma! Sarah, my great-grandmother's name was Sarah and my grandmother told me she was always known as Sally. I think your Grandma must have been a very special lady!

Angela W said...

Good Job Sarah! It was a delightful read.

Sarah Sherman said...

Thank you Angela!