There is a scripture that uses the phrase elect lady to describe a woman who, despite all odds and terrible trials, rose above, faced the trials with grace, contributed in meaningful ways using her education and talents, and continued to serve and love others.
I can’t think of a better title to describe my grandmother who rose above terrible odds and faced many trials in her life.
Descending from Scotch-Irish horse thieves who settled in the hill country of Kentucky (some might call them Hill Billies) Patricia Ann Beatty, alongside her 12 siblings, was raised by a single mother after her father died when she was 5. Two years after her father’s tragic accident her baby sister died, and at the age of 10 tragedy struck again when her twin brother fell ill and passed away as well. Her twin brother was her best friend as a child.
Despite the difficult circumstances of her childhood, she thrived in school. Truly rising above the neighborhood and the odds stacked against her.
While her parents had been baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1921, after her father’s death, her family fell away from church attendance. But when Grandma was about 12 a good Home Teacher began to come around followed by some missionaries. Grandma reflected on how important the timing was because she was old enough to ride the city bus by herself to get to church but still young enough to have not gotten distracted by other teen age cares. She was baptized at 13.
Just a few a years later a young Elder Lowe was assigned to her ward in Columbus, Ohio. While speaking in church he looked down and saw a young sister beaming up at him, hanging on his every word. He looked back at her and winked. He claims it was the spirit, but there might have been a dose of hormones impacting the wink as well. They kept in contact and upon him finishing his mission and her graduating high school they both headed to Brigham Young University. They were married in the Salt Lake temple in December of 1949, a few months before Grandma turned 19.
She had her first child just shortly after turning 20 followed by 4 more children. This was also the start of several “adventures” with Grandpa, moving here and there for jobs, which eventually landed them in Holbrook, Arizona. Never been to Holbrook or never heard of it? Well to be frank you’re not missing much, and at the same time, you’re missing everything.
In 1973 tragedy struck again when my grandparents lost a child. My uncle Allen was killed in a car accident at the age of 19. After losing her father, a baby sister, and her twin brother, now she had to bury a son.
The subsequent decades were filled with beauty and pain as she watched her children marry, but some of them divorce. She watched grandchildren be born, but one of them die. She traveled, and read, but also faced difficult health struggles. Eventually she and my grandpa had to say good bye to the silly town they loved and impacted greatly to move into the casita or “cottage” at my parents’ house. Grandma lived there for almost 14 years. She had beautiful service opportunities and made some wonderful new friends, but it’s also where she had to say good bye to her husband and later to my other grandmother who had become her room mate and friend.
Grandma was an elect lady. Despite the difficulties of her childhood and never completing her degree, she had a love for learning. She was well read. She knew ALL the words- and might fight you on how they were pronounced.
She valued the importance of education, and while not finishing her own formal education, she instilled that importance in her children. And she also contributed so much to her community as a long time substitute teacher.
She put teaching in our blood. Three of her children ended up as teachers and multiple grandchildren are also in the education field in one way or another.
Grandma was an elect lady. Despite not spending her formative years attending church, she more than made up for it in her personal study and devotion to the Gospel. As her vision declined she had her visiting teacher come over and read to her from Saints, a newly published history of the church.
Grandma was an elect lady. Despite all of the deep personal loss she faced in life, she moved forward with love. She was a faithful visiting teacher. And spent several years as a service missionary in the Family History center.
Grandma was an elect lady. She was so full of passion. She was passionate about music- another things she put in our blood. She was the biggest cheer leader for the arts. Living close to her meant that she attended most all of my choir concerts, and if you ever needed to feel amazing about yourself you just needed to look down at her in the audience and the look on her face, beaming with pride and joy- I wonder if that’s the look that Grandpa saw and couldn’t help but wink. She was passionate about politics and opinions. I don’t hold all the same political opinions she had, but I’m grateful she gave me that example of a strong and passionate woman.
Grandma was an elect lady. She was also vain. In fact, she was so vain, she probably thinks this blog post’s about her. At one point she had been in the hospital due to some heart problems. The day after she was released my mom went in to check on her and grandma made a comment about needing to get dressed for the day and put on her lipstick. My mom told her she didn’t need to get dressed, I mean she had just gotten out of the hospital and was supposed to take it easy. Grandma’s response, “Well, I’m not going to just sit around like some slovenly slut!” For the record, as I’m typing this I am wearing a house dress and have not done my hair, and I don’t even own lipstick. And while some of her vanity made me chuckle, or groan, here’s the thing I’ve learned and admire about it. She always wanted to put her best foot forward and while she was most vocal about it in appearances, you can also see that in many other aspects of her life. So while I am known to hang out in comfy clothes all day and don’t own lipstick, I certainly try to put my best foot forward in many other ways.
Grandma was an elect lady. She was a comforting presence. She was home. She was always there. Living close for almost seven years before she died meant that she was a staple in our family. I had the privilege of building memories with her as an adult and sharing my children with her. While I was pregnant with my second child, my little girl, I struggled with chronic pain and depression. There were days when I couldn’t handle being alone with a toddler. While everyone else was working, having her be home and available was a life saver. In particular, the day before I gave birth, I was overdue and completely miserable. I couldn’t handle being alone, but I also didn’t want to have to interact with a friend. I needed somewhere that I could talk if I wanted, or sleep if I wanted, or watch TV, and jump back and forth through all of those as needed. But mostly just not be alone but not be expected to entertain. So I headed over to her house and she got me through that very difficult day. She didn’t really do anything, she was just there and she was just the home and comforting presence that I needed. And to have lost that person hurts so deeply at times it is overwhelming.
She died only 13 months after my other grandma passed away. Their passings were very different and impacted me in very different ways. Last year when my Grandma Ramsey passed I wrote a tribute to her entitled Come, Sweet Death. In it I reflected on the difficulty of watching her linger, becoming a shell of herself. When she finally passed, it was more relieving than anything. The pain I felt was not at her leaving, it was because she had stayed for so long. I didn’t miss her, because I had already been missing her for a very long time.
This was not the case with Grandma Lowe.
Yes, she had been slowing down for a few years. She suffered from macular degeneration and was primarily blind by the end. She was certainly having some physical ailments and was beginning to have some mental slips- especially dealing with numbers.
But at the beginning of December she was there for our Christmas concert. Beaming with her fluffy hairstyle she had been wearing for as long as I can remember, and probably years before that.
Mid-December she attended my brother’s Wind Quintet concert and reveled in the beauty of the music he created.
She was an active participant in our Christmas festivities. But she was also tired and started to exhibit some strange symptoms.
She lost several pounds in a week then gained more back all in fluid. My mom was working on getting her in to the doctor, but with the holidays it took a few weeks.
New Year’s Eve! She came and celebrated at my house. We made cheap personalized pizzas which she thought were wonderful. My mom said it was the most she had seen her eat in weeks. She couldn’t see to play games with us, but we were playing Bananagrams, which is a word game, so she certainly gave her input. And she was happy, and very very alive.
The weeks following New Years began the doctors’ appointments. They discovered she had cirrhosis of the liver. They drained fluid, which gave her comfort, but it just came back. She became weaker and started sleeping more than not. The only times she left the house were for her doctors’ appointments.
But when she was awake she was lucid and able to carry on a conversation. I remember telling people when they asked how she was that I was fairly confident she would be around for her birthday in March, but doubted she’d make it to summer.
Here’s my twinge of regret. We had had a very busy holiday season and were coming up on an out of state wedding at the beginning of February. So in an effort to keep things a little more simplified, we didn’t drive the 45 minutes over to visit. I just had my mom keep me in the loop.
She had another appointment to drain fluid. It didn’t go well. Her vitals took a pretty hard crash during the procedure.
Finally President’s day weekend, we headed over for Sunday dinner. My mom had warned me that she had become very skinny, but it was hard to picture my previously voluptuous Grandma as frighteningly skinny. It was certainly startling to see how hollow her cheeks were after not seeing her for several weeks. Her arms reminded me of pictures of Holocaust survivors. She was beginning to look like death.
That Sunday evening was a beautiful experience. We gathered together in her little living room. My little family, my parents, my younger brother, and my aunt. We had a little Come Follow Me family home evening together. That week we had studied John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Begotten Son.” Being so close to Valentine’s Day I had created Valentines for the kids from Heavenly Father with a picture of Jesus and then the kids created Valentines for Heavenly Father, which we of course shared with Grandma. She wasn’t able to talk much anymore, but she still contributed in a quiet way. The promise from President Nelson about unleashing the power of the family kept running through my mind. What could be more powerful than having four generations of extended family, including two so young and new to the earth and one about to leave, together rejoicing in the love of our Heavenly Father and the gift of His Son?
That was the last time I saw her alive. And while I have dealt with regret at not getting over there to see her again, I am also so grateful to have that as my final memory with her. My final memory is one of those elect moments, and one of the most cherished and elect traits she has passed on to me- a love of the Gospel and gospel learning.
That Friday my mom took her to another appointment to get fluid drained. However upon arriving it was determined that the procedure would do more harm than good. They gave her the information for hospice and sent them home.
When my mom informed us of the decision I remember feeling sad that it gave some finality, but also feeling more afraid of it not being the end. After watching Grandpa Lowe and Grandma Ramsey linger for an extended time, slowly losing their faculties, barely living by the end, I couldn’t bare the idea of watching her do that. Selfishly I didn’t think I could handle the emotional drain of it. But also I knew she didn’t want to. Back in November before she passed, she had told me if she got to the point of not being aware, not being able to enjoy things, then she just wanted to go. So while I was sad, I did hope that she would pass quickly. But I was not at all prepared for how quickly she would go.
Saturday hospice came over and created a care plan. The plan included twice weekly visits from staff to assist with bathing and weekly appointments with different doctors. They made arrangements to bring in various medical equipment. The plans sounded like they were planning for weeks. Although much less confident, I still had hope that she would make it to her birthday, it was only 3 weeks away at that point.
Reports were varied- she’s not great but she’s hanging in there. Nothing that made me feel the need to drop everything and run over.
Monday night after choir, my brother, who had seen her Sunday, did give me more urgency. He said that it was almost certainly going to happen that week- she might not even last the night. I still didn’t think there was any way it would happen THAT quickly, but made plans to drive out the next day after my son finished preschool.
My uncle and his wife had flown out Sunday, they were going to fly back Monday but decided to stay through Tuesday. My mom debated on whether or not she should go to work Tuesday morning. She went in to check on Grandma early in the morning. She was able to be roused and could talk. My aunt offered to sit with her while my mom went ahead and went to work because she seemed stable enough. My mom said goodbye about 7:15, Grandma was able to respond. But by 7:45 she was gone. She passed away holding the hand of her lovely daughter-in-law. I am so grateful she was there to help her in those final moments.
My mom called shortly after my husband left for work. Knowing that my mom should have been at work, I knew it couldn’t be good news. Blessedly my husband was able to turn right around and take the day off to be with me. We headed out as a family to see her before they came to take her body.
Seeing her there so frail and so still when I had been planning to come over and spend the day with her as a last good bye was so hard and so painful. While I had selfishly hoped that she would not linger, again, selfishly I wasn’t ready. But she was. So while it felt like whiplash to go from Christmas and New Years functional and together to just after Valentine’s and President’s Day gone, I am grateful that she was not made to linger.
But I miss her. I miss her presence. I miss her mannerisms. I miss her trademark comments. I miss her vanity. I miss her love. I miss her snack cupboard. I miss her TV watching (even if I don’t like Fox News). I miss her hugs. I miss her softness. I miss her boldness. I miss the way she would “ooo” and “ahh” over fireworks. I miss watching her interact with my kids. I miss her smile. I miss the way she would crinkle her whole face up when she laughed. I miss seeing her beam.
Just two days after she passed we had another concert. They always talk about how hard “firsts” are, well we got to have a “first” right there in the middle of all the raw emotions. My choir typically sits in the last few pews of the church we perform in while we wait for our turn. I was in the habit of looking for Grandma’s hair to spot where she and the rest of my family were sitting. I kept catching myself looking for her hair. And when I spotted a woman with similar hair I just about lost it. But I had to keep it together! I had a substantial solo during one of our pieces. It was the type of thing that would have made Grandma beam even brighter (if that were possible). And maybe for the sake of my own ego (see that vanity she passed down!), I wanted her to hear it. I was nervous about becoming emotional during the song but somehow I got through, and not to toot my own horn (or sing my own solo as it were) but it went the best it had ever gone. I got the distinct impression that Grandma had indeed heard it. I almost fell apart right after that song, but managed to keep it together until the concert finished and my mom found me, and then we stood there on the steps of the church and held each other while we sobbed. Just a couple of ladies standing there ugly crying in a church, nothing to see here folks.
And now 6 months later, I still have moments where I just miss her. But I see her. Because she’s a part of me in some wonderful (and maybe a few less wonderful) ways. I got the ball on the end of my nose from her. And she’s probably partially to blame for my thyroid disorder. The moles…errr…beauty marks. And the other day I got home from the store to discover that I had bought butter when I already had a full pack in the freezer (upon her death she had about 16 pounds of butter in her freezer). She also gave me a love for the Gospel, education, music, glass figurines, language, teaching, Holbrook on the 4th of July, self reliance, family history, learning, and Texas sheet cake. (Just kidding on the sheet cake, it’s not my fave, but I probably inherited my sweet tooth from Grandma as well.)
So if you find yourself driving through Holbrook, AZ and think to yourself, what is this place? Why does it even exist? I’m right there with you. But then, I hope your next thought will be to have some reverence for the town and think, “Here lies an elect lady.”