My paternal grandmother Earl Smith Owens was more than a grandmother to me. She also served as my mentor for over two decades. The following testimony about how she mentored me is excerpted and revised from an article in my book The New ABC’s of Life for Children and Adults: Short Stories, Essays, and Poems Promoting Christian Concepts (ABC’s Ministries, 2016), pp. 111-113. Here’s our story:
“More Than a Grandmother”
Written by Pamela K. Orgeron (aka, Owens), M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC
“If you want to have friends you have to show yourself friendly,” Mama Owens said these words to me a lot in my younger days. She always said these words came from the Bible, but I did not learn the exact Scripture Proverbs 18:24 until I was older. Reading and discovering these words in Scripture for myself gave my grandmother’s wise advice more meaning. She also quoted the second half of Proverbs 18:24: “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”.
What impresses me the most about my grandmother’s biblical advice is that not only did she encourage me to be friendly and considerate of everyone’s feelings but she also set a biblical example and was one of my closest friends and mentors for over two decades. Her friendship helped mold me into the Christian I am now. Without her encouragement and personal mentoring, I doubt that I would have turned out as well grounded as a Christian as I am today.
Mama had become widowed before my birth. Her only child was my father. During my preschool years Mama lived in an old farmhouse across the street from my family. With this close proximity and with the very nature of our relationship as her only granddaughter, she and I developed a special bond quickly. She always said, “You’re the daughter I could never have myself”. Mama helped me through many difficult times, like when I was raped at about the age of 3 years old by a neighbor boy. She comforted me then and repaired my shirt that had been torn during the rape.
After the rape my parents chose to move our family to another part of town because they thought I would be safer in the new neighborhood. Not so! Not long after the move, I witnessed the murder of a special friend. Later while in grade school, I also was molested by children in our new neighborhood. Mama was there for me during those times too.
In spite of living further away from Mama and my being in school, we still maintained and nurtured our relationship at every available opportunity. I remember our long talks lying across her bed whenever I stayed overnight at her home. I could discuss anything with Mama, from my petty childhood problems to my biggest dreams of being a grown woman with a family and a career. During these discussions, Mama emphasized the important role Christ played in her life, and encouraged me to be the best possible person I knew to be by following the biblical principles.
Throughout my childhood and teenage years, Mama always made me feel special as she tried not to make a difference between her two grandchildren. If one of us had a birthday, both of us received a present. If she accompanied my family on a trip in the car, she always sat between my brother and me to prevent an argument from erupting over who would sit by her.
My grandmother’s presence gave an additional glow to our home each holiday. I will never forget the tasty dishes she prepared for those special occasions. Her best and most requested dinner was chicken and dumplings with all the trimmings. She taught me how to make homemade dumplings, which I now fix for my husband using her recipe as she used to do for my grandfather.
As I reflect on all the turning points in my life, memories of my grandmother always surface. Her presence will always be remembered and can still be felt when I see her photo that sits on a shelf in my home. She helped me to overcome many obstacles, from my toddler years to my college graduation. The secrets we kept of how she helped me in my struggles are neither few nor far between but are lodged in my heart forever.
Like God’s love, Mama’s love was unconditional. She loved me through both the successes and failures of life. Sure, we had problems. But we worked through our difficulties and differences or we left them alone, not allowing petty things to destroy our special bond.
Even though my career forced me to relocate miles away from my grandmother and death later came to her, our bond remains intact in memories and through our relationships with our best friend, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Written January 1992
Revised January 2016
2nd Revision, November 2017
Questions for Reflection
- What circumstances led to the author and her grandmother having such a close bond?
- How did the author’s grandmother influence her for the better?
- What was the author’s grandmother’s advice for her to be the best person she could be?
- Why do you think it was important for the author’s grandmother not to make a difference in her grandchildren?
- How do you think the author’s bond with her grandmother remains intact today?
- Psalm 103:17 says “But the mercy of the LORD [is] from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children”. Do you think this verse applies to the relationship between the author and her grandmother?
- How does the Bible say widowed grandmothers should be treated? (See 1 Timothy 5:3-8.)
Are you a grandparent who has grandchildren with absentee parents? For example, your children may be workaholics or have other addictions that rob time and attention from their children. If so, have you stepped up to the plate to fill in the loneliness and pain that your grandchildren may be experiencing? Some people think once they rear their children, they don’t want to rear their grandchildren too. What do you think?