Saturday, September 01, 2018

Roots that Hold Us by Eleanor Shepherd

In August, my daughter, Elizabeth, my granddaughters, Sanna (age 6) and Alma (22 months) and I visited the little fishing village on the coast of Trinity Bay in Newfoundland where my mother was born and where as a teen, I had discovered her heritage.

Much of the story, I learned from my Mother, who lost her own mother to stomach cancer when she was fourteen. As the eldest child and the only girl, she knew everyone assumed she would forfeit any further studies and stay home and care for her four younger brothers ranging in age from 11 to 2.

What a relief it must have been to her, when her father informed her that her Evans grandparents, his father and step-mother were moving in to help care for the family. Her father  lost his mother early, and his father, Mom’s grandfather, eventually married Eliza Evans who became our Great-Grandma Evans.This woman had a heart as big as that community where the family made their home.  Even when my mother was a little girl, Grandmother would send her off with a pot of hot soup to a family where there was sickness or some reason for care and compassion.  My Mom had learned from accompanying her grandmother on such missions that it was appropriate not only to offer the soup to the family for physical sustenance but also to read to them a portion from the Bible for their emotional and spiritual sustenance, which she did in her turn. It was the beginning of my Mother's awareness that God was calling her to serve Him full time as minister of His grace in The Salvation Army.  

      She would need to complete her schooling and find a job in order to be able to fulfill this calling. With the death of her mother, such a goal appeared to become an unattainable dream.  Yet Grandmother Evans saw her willing heart and decided to do what she could to make it possible. From her own meagre savings she gave my Mother the money to buy her first Salvation Army uniform.  Then she told my mother to pursue her studies and get herself a teaching position in The Salvation Army schools. She would care for the boys, so that my Mother could leave and get any available teaching job to be able to save the money she needed to apply for officership.  For the rest of her life my Mother honoured Grandmother Evans by being the best messenger of the Gospel that she could be, in gratitude for the sacrifices Grandmother made.

At the age of 16, I stood with my parents and the folks of the community of Hant's Harbour around her grave as the casket was lowered and we sang in honour of her life,
"I'll be true, Lord to Thee
I'll be true, Lord to Thee
And whatever may befall
I shall surely conquer all,
If I am but true to Thee."

At that age, I had little idea what the future held for me, but I made that promise with all my heart, nevertheless.

This summer I was able again to stand in front of the grave of this courageous woman, Eliza Evans and reflect on the truth of those words for me.  As I watched my little granddaughters gather flowers that were growing in the cemetery around us and place them lovingly on the tomb of a great-great-grandmother they had never known but knew was loved by their grandma, and their mother’s grandma, I marvelled again at the faithfulness of God from one generation to the next.

We make our promises and by His grace, we keep them to the best of our ability, and we are able to depend on His faithfulness whatever comes our way.

Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

Eleanor, what a lovely tribute to the life and sacrificial dedication of this godly woman and to the grace of God that has flowed generationally to you and continues through you! And how poignant that your three current generations could be gathered at the graveside to honour Eliza's memory together.
I love how your moment of consecration when singing at that hallowed spot all those decades ago has been sustained as an ongoing present reality. ~~+~~

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