GammieMid-January each year, my siblings and I mark the closest thing we have to a Saint’s Day. It’s the anniversary of the death of our beloved grandmother, “Gammie.” (The first of her 15 grandchildren couldn’t pronounce “r.”) She died more than 50 years ago, a heart attack while shoveling snow at home – the home my dad was born in and that Gammie herself was born in.

Gammie never went to college. I doubt she graduated from high school. But she had a grandmotherly wisdom and unconditional love that surrounded all of us. We only saw her 2-3 times a year, as my childhood was one of being transplanted every few years while my dad grew in his career. Each visit was magical then, as are the decades-old memories.

Why do we celebrate her so? I think Gammie is an archetype of what we all yearn for: Attentiveness, patience, little advice, a compassionate heart. Endless hugs. Tea with lots of sugar, and cinnamon toast. In her wisdom, she knew that whatever troubled us we had the capacity to figure out, as long as we had a kind and gentle presence.

We try to create that atmosphere in our UU Wellspring circles. And really, don’t all good friendships have these qualities?

I never saw Gammie read a book. And as far as I know, the following is the only thing she ever wrote, a few years before her early death. This is the kind of “welcome” to which I aspire!


By Mary (Gammie) Collins

I say it’s good to be alive

When those you love the most arrive.

This is the sweetest sound I know,

To hear the children shout “Hello”

It fills the measure with content

To get that hug that’s truly meant

And I enjoy the time I use –

In taking off their overshoes

It makes me proud to have them be

Happy to share a meal with me.

And when they shatter plate or cup

The pieces gladly I pick up

Their mother by their noise disturbed

Insists that children should be curbed

And with that notion I agree,

Except when visiting with me.

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