Grandmas left legacy of faith, hope, service

By  Lisa Petsche
  • April 24, 2008

My paternal grandmother died 19 years ago, at age 81. This year marks the 100th anniversary of her birth. To honour her life and her legacy, one of my uncles is compiling a booklet of memories.

Grandma was one of seven children, born and raised on a farm in Austria.

She came to Canada in her early twenties, securing employment as a domestic worker until her marriage. Her first child, my father, was born in the middle of the Great Depression.

Grandma bore 13 children in all -- 10 more than I have. I’m amazed that she managed to ensure everyone’s needs were met, especially without the many conveniences today’s mothers take for granted.

Incredibly, she and Grandpa were still raising children when the grandkids began arriving.

Despite the sacrifices her life involved, Grandma was never known to complain. In fact, she used to remark how blessed she was to have many children, all healthy (she’d lost two young siblings to illness). Eventually her grandchildren numbered 33 and she had several great-grandchildren at the time of her death.

What I remember most about Grandma is the warm welcome – including a big hug -- she would always give. When you showed up at her door, she made you feel you had just made her day.

The first thing you noticed upon entering her house was the image of the Divine Mercy – a picture of Jesus with rays of light radiating from His heart -- on the wall.

Also of note were the many photos of grandkids on display.

I don’t recall many toys, but my siblings and I enjoyed playing with a big box of Lego. Grandma also kept a supply of crayons and colouring books in the kitchen table drawer. Everyone who completed a page would sign and date it.

When our family visited after Mass, Grandma would bring out tea and juice, cookies and mints. She always wanted to serve you something, regardless of the time of day.

One weekend, Grandma slept over while my parents went away. My sisters and I made apple strudel with her, clearing the kitchen table so we could roll out the dough. No strudel we’ve ever had compares to Grandma’s mouth-watering recipe.

I also have special memories of a New Year’s Eve spent with Grandma (by then widowed). At midnight we went out her back door and came in through the front, for good luck. While outside, we merrily smashed saucers — old ones, also for luck — at Grandma’s insistence.

Grandma wasn’t well enough to attend my wedding, so after the ceremony, on the way to the photo studio, my husband and I took a detour so we could visit her. We had several shots taken in her living room. These are the last pictures I have of Grandma, who died a few months later.

Grandma had a strong faith that God would take care of things. For example, an insurance salesman came to her door during a time when buying anything non-essential was out of the question. Grandma pointed to the picture of Jesus behind her and said, “He’s my insurance.” The Lord did not let her down.

As my aunt said at Grandma’s 80th birthday celebration, “She’d be the first to admit that without her rich faith and trust in God’s provision, she couldn’t have cared for so many so well.”

When asked for gift ideas for special occasions, Grandma would reply without hesitation that she didn’t need anything. She was satisfied with living simply. If you insisted on giving a gift, she requested a donation to a charity that helped the poor. She placed everyone’s needs above her own.

What a wonderful legacy of faith, hope and service Grandma left her family and others whose lives she touched.

 For those who wish to honour a mother or grandmother, living or deceased, through a charitable donation, allow me to suggest Save the Mothers, a Canadian Christian organization. It aims to reduce the number of mothers in developing countries (as many as one in 16) who die of complications from pregnancy or child birth. To learn more about its initiatives, go online to or call 1-866-STM-2350.

(Petsche is a Contributing Editor to The Catholic Register.)

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