May 07, 2016

The Hands of a Beloved Matriarch

Today, as in every 7th of May since I was born, marks a special day in our family. It is Virginia Bradshaw's birthday! We affectionately know her as "Grandma Ginger--" a name given to her by older cousins that could not say Virginia. The name stuck and even our friends growing up called her Grandma Ginger. Over the years it shortened for me and I refer to her, very affectionately, but simply as Ginger. 

Ginger has been the matriarch of our family since her mother, Grandma Wanda White, another beloved and respected woman, died in 2004. Grandma White’s strong personality and loving presence was such an integrated part of our lives it was hard to have her gone. There are many memories that linger of her influence. The title of Matriarch of our family passed from Grandma White’s aged and arthritis twisted fingers to Ginger’s hands. To see Ginger step into that role could have been daunting, but no, it was seamless and as with anything Ginger does, it is full of love.

This woman, whom I spent hours and hours with growing up, is one of my heroes. She is a woman of faith and love. I remember years ago sitting on her lap, as we cousins often jockeyed to do and watched as Ginger’s hands traced the framed seal of the Relief Society next to her favorite chair. After I had enquired she lovingly, and passionately, explained what the motto of the Relief Society “Charity Never Faileth” meant. Ever since that day I have long since saw Ginger in my mind’s eye as I thought about Charity and loving others.
Those same hands raised six children into adulthood with all its ups and down, laughter and heartache that must fill and worry a mother’s heart. These hands have often wringed with worry, caressed a tearful cheek, lifted a heavy burden, served her favorite drink of choice (Pepsi), and warmly held another’s hand in love.

Ginger was a career woman and used those hands to learn how to type and use technology as the secretary for the school district for year. After typing she would clean and do other items around the office, when she retired they had to hire three people to do the work she was doing. I watched those hard working hands complete hours at work  then she would join her life-long companion at the farm. I saw her knuckles whiten and her muscles tense as she carried a five gallon bucket of milk in each arm to feed calves. I stood side by side with her while we rolled hay bales and together filled a truck with bales then prayed all the way to the barn the brakes would not go out.

All of us have watched those hands crochet and sew. There are not many places Ginger goes without a handback, worn with use, next to her feet full of supplies to continue her art. We have all been given gifts of love made out of those supplies. We have also watched as she kneaded loaves of bread to perfection and savored the smells and taste of the finished product. And we have listened to those same fingers, calloused from work on the farm, play peaceful and serene hymns for church meetings, funerals and family gatherings.

Most of all, on this birthday (and her anniversary) I want to remember Ginger’s service to others. I joke that she was a perpetual Relief Society President. Leading a group of women in her congregation to serve, love and care for others—truly living the motto that Charity Never Faileth. I remember, years ago (she may not even know that I knew this was happening), sitting at the kitchen table as she spoke with one of the women in her congregation that needed help to support and feed her family. As Relief Society President, it was Ginger’s job to help these families get the basic food and supplies they needed. As they went down the list of available items from the Bishop’s Storehouse and the woman and Ginger talked about meeting the needs of each individual in the family I realized that Ginger was helping this woman and many of the things on the list this woman would receive was far more than what Ginger herself had in her fridge or cupboards. Never did she mention this, nor did she ask for more, she, with strong resolve, always seemed to find a way to make it work.

So, Ginger, I hope you know there are so many people who love and admire the woman you are. Your hands have literally been the hands of service just as the Savior himself would serve had he been there. Countless are the thankless hours of time you have given to bless others and numerous are the ripples of kindness you have spread. We all know that your humility will pass off the impact you have in our lives, and yes, we know that nobody is perfect, but in the love you have for us, you are perfect. You truly do make a difference. Everyday. And at today we get to celebrate you—our Matriarch--A woman who loves fireworks, the temple, cheering for any child or grandchild at a game, a dance recital or a rodeo, a woman who loves Pepsi and peach rings, one who jumped on a bike and rode a mile to prove to grandkids she wasn't old, and one who has a genuine appreciation for life and all that is given to her. 

A four generation selfie (even though Kell was singing for it)

I love you!

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