Today my grandma, Bobby Sue Eastis Chapman, passed away. She was a consistent presence in my life, and I’m so thankful she got to hold each of my babies and sing to them the way she sang to me and my siblings as babies.
She was an encourager to her core. She never passed up an opportunity to comment on a blog post I’d written; send me an email telling me she was proud of something I’d done; leave a detailed note with a present she’d give me explaining why she thought it was perfect for me to have.
So I thought it would be fitting to leave a space here to recognize her passing into eternity with Jesus. My mom wrote a great tribute of sorts on Facebook, and I thought it would be perfect to include here.
Grandma we love you, and we are so thankful you are where there is no weeping, where there is no darkness, and where you are fully known. Like I told you just before you passed, you have a head start in joining with the angels singing because of all the hymns you know by heart. Thank you for the legacy you have given us as a family.
Cancer is a horrible tool of the enemy used to bring death and destruction to lives and families. Though not visible, I have the internal battle scars from being on the sidelines assisting in one degree or another with four of these struggles against this deadly force of evil. The latest has been fighting alongside my mom. While cancer will result in her death, it does not define her. She is so much more than it’s latest victim. And that is what I choose to focus on in the early morning light sitting by her bedside waiting for her to be fully and perfectly healed.
Mom is/was an amazing woman, as we sadly begin to talk in past tense.She was the youngest of five girls, who grew up being called and calling themselves the Eastis Girls. She loved to say she would probably not have been the baby if her father, who she was named after, hadn’t died the year she was born from the after effects of being gassed in the trenches of France during WWI. Having grown up a fatherless child, she could have easily slipped into a victim mindset but I honestly never remember in the almost sixty years I’ve known Mom ever hearing her complain about her circumstance. They were dreadfully poor, before any of the social safety nets in place today, with little if any help from extended family. These Eastis girls and their mama banded together to take care of themselves by themselves against all odds. I could write a book about everything they endured, but Mom already did. She wrote her book, The Eastis Girls: Growing Up in Abilene back in 2000 and self published it for her sisters and their families to make sure the stories didn’t get lost along the way.
Against all odds, she not only graduated from high school in the 1940s, but in my youth went back to school to earn not only her bachelor degree but also a masters degree from Midwestern State University and spend many years as a elementary school math teacher in WFISD. She ended up teaching math because in her first college math class she blew the top off the curve for everyone else in the class. At the end of semester her professor encouraged her to take more math classes because she had an apparent natural gift, or maybe the problem solving skills developed from growing up poor translate well.
She was never afraid of hard work. She started her first paying job at age ten, working at a soda fountain. She loved to joke that they must have thought she was really stupid since she had to work so many years at her after school job to work her way through high school. In my childhood I remember her working all hours of the night repairing and rebinding Bibles. In fact Lynn and I always shared a room because the third bedroom in our home was always “the shop” full of leather, glue and a gold stamp press. It later converted into a study of sorts when she was grading papers or she and dad were working on computers. She also was a pretty successful Avon Lady back when she was working her way through college. We were living in a small house over by Lake Wichita at the time and she had that route in our neighborhood. She walked door to door carrying her sample bag. She would tell stories of delivering product to one lady by candlelight because her power had been cut off for non-payment, but who insisted she had to have her makeup. Mom gave up her Avon route when she received her first contract to teach school. As hard as it is to believe today, she actually took a cut in pay when she started carrying paper to grade in her bag rather than cosmetic and perfume samplers.
One passion Mom had was contesting. It is a lost art in these days of random drawings and lotto, but these was a time when people would use their creativity to submit entities to be judged for prizes. She won my first bike and the 54″ oak pedestal table in my breakfast room had been hanging in my great uncle Willie’s barn until she traded them a steam iron she had won. If you are interested in understanding more about this time in history, the Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is pretty spot on. There were just two kids in our family rather than the 10 in the Ryan’s house. I have the DVD and enjoyed watching it with Mom to relive the past. (It’s available on Amazon Instant video to watch and l’m sure you’ve wasted $2.99 on much less enjoyable treats.)
One other major life long passions has been reading. It is rare to see Mom without a book. She and her sisters would trade sacks of books as they all share the passion for the written word. As she has aged she has limited herself to only books with happy endings and was a weekly visitor to the Carrollton Public Library large print shelves, bringing home at least 15 books each week. Her favorite college class was Children’s Literature where she fell in love with all the books she missed as a child. She had planned to be a Language Arts teachers until that math professor got hold of her. She also lacked self control with her reading, staying up way too late many nights with a great book. She also made my dad hide the Hobbit from her when she was in the middle of college finals.
She was also a Life Member of Weight Watchers, having lost 100 pounds on their program over a two year period and had kept it off for over a year. She was confident this weight loss was what made her even eligible to begin her cancer battle and she was so grateful her amazing medical team took a chance on her. She still continued to attend weigh-ins while going through treatment to keep her Life status and worried about the few pounds she gained from extra eating triggered by the weeks she received steroids as a part of her treatment. The doctors were happy, but she was determined to stay on top of her weight. We also gave Mom a Fitbit for Mother’s Day this past May before her diagnosis. She set the goal at 2,500 steps a day and most days made her goal even while undergoing treatment. Lynn and I also have Fitbits, but have not been meeting our goals these bast few weeks. Plus Lynn and I have decided we will be joining Weight Watchers in her honor when we have more time on our hands in a few weeks. It seems we’ve both been eating our way through her battle, but this will give us something else to focus on together moving forward.
She loved well. She was a true balcony person. Joyce Landorf Heatherley wrote a book by the title in 1984 that describes her perfectly – “the gift and ministry of affirmation and those people in the balcony who shout words of encouragement to us and spur us on to be what God intends for us.” She never let a compliment go unspoken. She found something to love in every child she taught. She also was so proud of her family. She was a very involved grandmother, even when mine were way down in Houston. She showed up. She made memories and felt accomplished that they could make it around the corner before she started crying on the long drives home. She volunteered at my nephews schools after she moved to Carrollton and was always diving a bunch of hungry kids for pizza or sandwiches after school or practice. And oh how she loved to cook for people! Her second book was a collection of all the favorite family recipes and a few more stories called Kitchen Memories. Lynn and I still use it often as do our kids to make her Chicken and Dumplings, Big Mama Cake and many many more favorites.
Of most comfort to me right now is how much she loved the Lord. While she might not have known her earthly father, she has an amazing relationship with her heavenly one. While she grew up in the Church of Christ, she and Dad were married in the Episcopal church. He was Baptist and they both knew they didn’t want to get married in each other’s church. My Grandpa Chapman knew the minster at Heavenly Rest because he had bound books for him at the Book Bindery, so he agreed to perform the ceremony. Then years later, after failed attempts to find a home in the Baptist and Methodist churches, Mom attended inquiry classes at an Episcopal church. She was set to go through confirmation, when my dad asked her to wait until they moved to Wichita Falls so they could go through inquiry classes together. They did and we’re both confirmed there at Saint Stephen’s in the 1960s. She loved the church and especially the music and the glorious pipe organ well above the standards for a church that size. Our family memories are drenched in time spent there and later at All Saints. The Episcopal church was a safe place for dad as he found his way to the sobriety he enjoyed the last 22 years of his life. Mom loved the history and intellectual integrity she found there, devouring everything CS Lewis wrote. But hers was both a head and heart relationship with the Lord. She walked the Gospel. She loved well and was a true peace maker. She forgave the unforgivable experiences of her youth. She never blamed God for her fatherless life or the hard times she faced. She sought justice. Her current priest Father Reed described her best when he said, “Bobby may have been quiet, but she was never timid.” She loved to study God’s word and was always inviting others to come to Bible Study Fellowship with her. One of my greatest joys was being able to attend BSF with her and Lynn each week. Again she loved the songs we sang in the room full of women, but always worried that she might be talking too much in the discussion groups, but was too excited to share the answers she had found for the questions. This past year I had the double joy of bringing her with me to the Tuesday Morning Bible Studies at my church Bent Tree Bible Fellowship. The women in our group held a special place in Mom’s heart and they loved her right back.
This year the BSF study is Revelation. She was so excited to get the call from her new group leader and was just a little concerned it might be over her head. But she was looking forward to what God was going to show her through the study of His word. Now Lynn and l and all those who love her can take comfort that HE has desired she can have all the answers now as she sees Him face to face. We are confident she will soon be totally healed and will live forever with Him in glory. If you don’t share that same confidence and want to know how you can too be sure Heaven is your final destination, please don’t hesitate to ask us! Nothing would make Mom happier than knowing that God used her life and death to draw you to Him. She would love to see you again and spend eternity with you!