“Seeing Grandma through Her Book,” Ensign, June 1989, 70–71
While I was in college, my Grandma Greer fell down a flight of stairs onto bare concrete, injuring herself so severely that her heart stopped three times while emergency medical crews fought successfully to save her. She also broke her jaw, hip, and ribs. But worst of all, she lost nearly all of her vision. Adding to this burden, her husband suddenly died of a heart attack a few weeks later.
Why had she survived her accident only to face this? she wondered. She missed my grandpa and longed to be reunited with him. Fortunately, she had a good home teacher who helped her to feel secure.
As time went on, Grandma began to feel that perhaps she had survived her fall for an important reason, and she determined to find out what it was. She began to realize that once a person is gone, there isn’t much left on earth to remember him or her by. Many of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren—including me—hadn’t known her and Grandpa well. And she wanted them to know their heritage. Though she and grandpa had published a history of their childhoods and courtship, Grandma decided that she needed to record their fifty years of marriage and service in the Church as well.
With this new goal, Grandma became excited about life again. Her only problem was how to do it. She was nearly blind, and she didn’t know how to type.
With help from friends and relatives, she managed to get the beginning chapters written. But perhaps because of her blindness and failing memory, she lost the chapters before they could be copied. It now seemed that all her efforts had been wasted. Time was slipping away, and it looked as if Grandma’s history would not be completed after all.
About this time, Grandma phoned me and asked for help with her history. I had never had a very close relationship with my grandparents, and the last thing I wanted to do was to help with this project. Besides, I didn’t have the means to help her.
About this time, I graduated from college. To my surprise, I found a job near where my grandmother lived. Though I still didn’t really want to help write her history, I felt a family obligation to give her some of my time.
While visiting her, I evaluated what needed to be done to complete the book. She had a box full of photos, tapes, letters, newspaper clippings, and certificates. To organize this would take months!
But I figured that the Lord was listening to her prayers. The first week at my new job, I hurt my back and had to remain inactive for some time. I decided to spend my recuperation time helping Grandma with her history.
I was embarrassed by how grateful she was for my help because I still wasn’t very enthusiastic about the project.
I soon found that the fastest way to compile the material was to tape-record Grandma telling her story. Though the history was soon progressing well, my injured back wasn’t, and after a while I was almost out of money. I concluded to return home; the history would have to wait.
About this time, my grandmother’s home teacher, John Minor, told me about a night when my grandmother had almost died. She had been very sick and had phoned him—not to ask him for a blessing, but to ask him to pray for her, which he did.
That night John dreamed that he saw my grandfather, who told him he was going to “call for Grandma.” John pleaded, “You can’t. She hasn’t finished her book yet!” The next day, John checked on Grandma. She was all right.
As John told me of his dream, I felt the Spirit soften my heart. I sensed the urgency of finishing my grandmother’s book. It would not be easy, but I determined to stay as long as I could with her—as long as my meager funds lasted.
Concern for Grandma’s book spread to other family members. They pitched in, giving me room and board while I wrote. In a pocket of some clothing my family sent from home, I found fifty dollars that I had forgotten about. The Lord was blessing us.
As I continued to write, I began to understand my grandparents. I learned about the persecution they had endured when they joined the Church. Soon after their marriage, they found out that they could not have children until Grandma underwent an operation to allow them that blessing. I felt the Spirit of Elijah turn my heart to my fathers, and I appreciated my grandparents more than ever before.
After a few months of steady work, I completed the rough draft and sent the first chapters to Grandma. She loved them!
A few weeks later, Grandma died.
I have since finished her biography and the family has published it. I believe that through her life-history, other descendants can come to understand and love Grandma and Grandpa Greer with a clarity that otherwise would not have been possible.