Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye Grandma...


Yesterday evening my grandmother passed away.  She died in her own home and on her terms, with only her oldest daughter present.  She was ready to go and her passing was peaceful.  When I think of my grandmother there is one word that seems to exemplify who she was and why she was so special – strength.  Helen Marian Gage Johnson had strength of will, character, mind, body and heart. 

Marian with sisters around 1932 (Elaine, Norma & Pauline in front (L-R)
Marian with Orland & Bernard in 1929 - going to school.

Marian Gage & Frank Johnson - Married 1939
Grandma Marian was the 2nd oldest child of the 10 children of Ora & Florence Shawver Gage.  She was never a tiny and delicate girl and was always big for her age.  When the depression hit her family, Grandma was the helpful daughter who helped her mother prepare food for their large family and helped take care of the younger children.  When her family traveled across Montana in 1934 with six children in a Model A, I know she was the best helper her mother could have asked for.  In 1935, after they moved to Hatter Creek, she went out along with her brothers and got jobs to help support her family.  Her mother was determined that she would graduate from high school, so she sent her to the Ursaline Academy in Moscow, ID.  The strength of will came in – as it did during much of her life – when she and a nun disagreed over something.  Grandma came back home to the farm and went to school in Potlatch, graduated in 1939 alongside her older and younger brother.  When Grandma Marian married later in 1939, she set out on her new married life with another trip across Montana to her new husband’s home in North Dakota.  Grandma Marian had to use all of the skills she had learned from her mother about cooking with very little as well as the determined spirit that her family knew so well.  She and her husband had little money or resources – but still had family members living with them in a tiny house and three children in quick succession.  In 1943, she had reached her limit and came back home to visit her family.  Very quickly it was decided that her husband would come out west as there were better opportunities in Idaho than back in North Dakota.  Grandma Marian & Grandpa Frank had two more children and lived in the old Hatter Creek School until 1952 when they moved in the Mountain Home area – just below Skyline Drive near Potlatch.  In 1965, Grandma Marian and Grandpa Frank moved to the Oregon City area, finally settling in Canby, OR.  After Grandpa Frank’s death in 1975, Grandma Marian’s parents moved nearby and for 15 years more they helped care for each other until their deaths in 1990 and 1991.  Grandma moved back to Idaho in 2001, and lived that last 10 years of her life in Lewiston, ID.

Grandma Marian showed her strengths in many ways during her life.  She was extremely intelligent and one of the best students in any school she went to.  Just a few months ago, could still rattle off several generations of British Kings and Queens.  What was even more endearing is when she and her brother would bicker over some teacher or event from their childhood.  I think Grandma required these spirited discussions with her older brother as they mirrored their lifetime together as siblings.  She loved her parents dearly, but she and her father clashed on several occasions.  Both were strong willed people and sometimes they didn’t always agree.  It is ironic that she dies on the same day as her father, 21 years after his death.  Throughout Grandma’s long life, she worked hard.  She worked hard as a wife and mother by preparing her families food and clothing and taking care of their needs and working alongside her husband on their farm with no complaint.  She worked the long hours as a cook and later in a chicken plant and ending her working life in a tool factory.  Just before she moved to Lewiston in 2001, she took up the computer as a hobby.  Grandma wasn’t one to be idle very long – so she began scanning and printing her mother’s pictures and making albums for her children and grandchildren. 
Grandma at her 90th Birthday party with her living siblings.

It is a testament to the remarkable person that she was – that wherever she went, she made lifelong friends.  My faith tells me that she is in a better place and with loved ones that she has lost. We will miss her stubborn unquenchable spirit and loving caring.  Grandma until we meet again – We love you and miss you!