A Grandmother’s Harvest of Truths
Note from Savitri: My sweet mother-in-law, Willma Willis Gore is 91 years young. She lives in Sedona, Arizona. Mom stays very busy as a professional writer; she runs several writer’s workshops each week, encouraging aspiring writers to upgrade their skills and figure out how to publish or have published what they have written. She has visited us at Ananda many times and is very much in tune with the essence of our teachings. I love this true story, which she wrote about her childhood, and I hope you’ll enjoy it also:
I was fortunate to be born into a loving family. They taught me the value of hard work and that such was the personal responsibility of all. The family business was a small dairy on a ranch in a California town, Lone Pine, at the foot of the High Sierra. Daddy and one hired man did all the work — growing and harvesting alfalfa and grain for animal feed and hand-milking 22 to 25 cows twice a day. Until my sisters and I were old enough to take over the chores of bottling the milk, washing and sterilizing bottles and delivering the milk, Mother handled these chores as well as cooking for the family and for hay crews. She also made the school clothes for us girls. I never knew how she found time in a day for everything she accomplished.
Since Mother and Dad were so busy constantly, my dear grandmother who lived with us several months every year was the only one who had time to talk at length to me. She read constantly. Her tastes ranged from stories in the Saturday Evening Post (that she often read to me) to books from the library on philosophy and religion.
We were not members of any specific religious denomination, but we were encouraged to believe in God. We children attended Sunday School when we could coordinate a Sunday morning milk delivery with a church service. Our dairy home was about two miles out of town.
Grandmother was eclectic in her church attendance. She would attend the Nazarene service one Sunday, the Methodist another, the Episcopal service another. Her usual evaluation was: “The minister made some very good points.” She would translate his words into simple language for me. “Do unto others…” had many applications that she related. And she reminded us often that God knows all of our needs. Therefore our nightly bedtime prayer should not make requests of God. Rather our prayers should express our enduring thankfulness for all the blessings of love and support we received.
As I anticipated the opening of school one September, I proudly modeled the three dresses mother had made for me. I wanted Grandmother’s advice on which one I should wear the first, second and third day of school.
Grandmother praised all three but had a suggestion: “You know, Willma, there are children in your school who will have only one new dress for the whole year. Why don’t you wear a new one every month or six weeks instead of all three the first week?”
I got her point immediately. I knew that my friend Maria Hernandez probably would not have even one new dress to start school.
Once, as I sat beside Grandmother on our porch at sundown admiring the beautiful pink clouds above the mountains on the east side of our valley, She said. “The pretty clouds are today’s gift of beauty for us. Look carefully at each one for you will never again in all of your life see clouds that look exactly like these.” She took my hand and looked into my eyes. “And that is like you. There never was a person like you before and there will never be another person like you again.” She was saying I was unique, one of a kind.
I pondered the profundity of her words. I didn’t know the word “unique” then but I knew that it behooved me to make the best use of whatever native talents and abilities were my privilege to have received in genes or gained through schooling and reading.
But I believe Grandmother’s most precious legacy is her conviction repeated over and over to me as child and young woman: “God does not give us any burdens he hasn’t equipped us to bear.”
That has been my lifelong philosophy. It has seen me through the too-early deaths of my mother, father, sisters, and, through the anguish of my young husband’s losing both hands in an Army camp accident in 1945, followed by a year of virtually living at the hospital with him. The conviction that I can meet any challenge, thanks to God, saw him and me through completing college together, my bearing our three wonderful sons, and the many surprises and rewards of knowing and mothering five stepchildren.
As I approach my 92nd birthday and continue daily writing — essays, novels, short stories and leading writer workshops, my lifelong career — I have never been more convinced of the fact that: “God gives us only the burdens He has equipped us to bear.”