A Tribute to Edith Prentice, My Consistent and Loyal Grandmother
In my short ministerial career I have done more than a few memorials for those who have passed from an earthly life into eternity. Some were uncertain or hopeless and not easy. Some were a celebration of a life well-lived.
Being the primary minister for my grandmothers celebration was both easy and difficult.
It was easy because Edith Lucille (Cook) Prentice, known as MaMaw by her family, was a kind and good woman while she was on earth. She trusted in Jesus and it showed through her life. I sincerely did have difficulty coming up with anything negative to say about her. When my mother posted on Facebook that she had died, the overwhelming theme of the many comments was that she was such a kind, sweet woman who was always smiling.
But it was MaMaw’s reputation of kindness and goodness that also made my preparation challenging. I did not, and even now, do not want to idolize her because she was such a wonderful woman. For this reason, it was important that I struck the right balance in paying tribute to her.
MaMaw passed away on August 4, 2014 at the age of 96, which is even more impressive considering she was a cancer survivor of over 40 years. She died in Tulsa, but until 2009, she had lived all her life in Haskell County.
When I learned that her days were drawing to a close, I began to think about what made MaMaw the great woman that I had come to know. Besides the fact that she made the best banana pudding and chocolate chip cookies in the world, what about MaMaw made her worthy of our respect and honor?
She was so many things. She was loving, caring, generous and servant hearted – to name a few, but her life was consistently marked by consistency and loyalty.
You could see this in the little things of her life:
- She always had Wrigley Spearmint or Juicy Fruit Gum in her purse. Was it for her grand-kids or her? I don’t know but I knew I could count on MaMaw for a stick of gum.
- If she was in Stigler, her garage door was almost always open and her door to the house unlocked; almost as if she was extending an open-house invitation. This made it easy for me to go in and partake of a can of mandarin oranges. I can’t remember a time I was disappointed to find she had none in the cupboard.
- She always sat in a certain area of Stigler First Baptist Church without being a territorial curmudgeon. She was a faithful church attender and served consistently in the nursery, the library and the church kitchen.
- She was a loyal Baptist. When she moved to the assisted living center in Tulsa, I one day asked her if she was going to church (chapel). She said she had, and informed me that the ministers were of different denominational varieties. She further explained the most recent minister was a Methodist and wanted me to know he was a nice man and did a good job, but I was not to worry for she was still solidly a Baptist and she would not be converted.
- She wanted all her grandchildren to have some sort of quilt or blanket she had made with her own hands. She was industrious.
- She was a loyal Oklahoma State Cowboys Fan! I would say, as a fan of another team in the state, she was even a little combative about it at times. She had an OSU pillow that was with her right up until to her final moments of life.
- As best she could, she was very supportive of her grandchildren and their extracurricular activities. On one occasion she attended one of my American Legion Baseball Games in Poteau and I was trying to pitch. In other words, I was having a hard time throwing a strike. One of fathers of a teammate was not impressed and was letting me know about it. MaMaw, who was sitting not far from him, turned and said, “Sir, that is my grandson!” Translation: “Be quiet or I’ll have to come up there!” She would never say something like that, but the man got the point and ceased from his hostilities.
These were all little things and some may seem insignificant, but they are little things that displayed her consistency and loyalty. Little things are telling things!
She was also consistent and loyal in big things:
- When I would visit her in her home, her Bible was always visible, and there was evidence of its regular use.
- She was known in her church to be a “prayer warrior”. I heard members of Stigler First Baptist describe her this way on several occasions. I know for a fact, she prayed for me constantly.
- She was loyal to her husband who died on January 18, 1978. She was married to him for 41 years and remained faithful to her covenant for 36 years after his passing. That is 77 years of loyalty. Without a doubt, this has had a lasting influence on the marriages of her children and grandchildren. There have been thirteen marriages of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and to this very day there has not been a single divorce. My grandfather died when I was three years old, but many years later I can remember MaMaw weeping because she missed her husband.
In my view, she was a consistent and loyal woman. In small things and big things, she was a great woman!
And this is also why speaking and writing about her is hard. It is hard because while I want to honor her for the things she did and the person she was, I don’t want to idolize her or miss the source of her strength.
From where she stands now, imagine what she would say to me and to you. Consider what she thinks about her own greatness. I believe strongly that if she could speak to us right now, she would say, “NO!” Or, “Be Careful not to make too much of me!” Rather she would say, “Honor me by making much of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain for the forgiveness of sins; for the forgiveness of my sins!”
MaMaw was a loyal Christian and my hope and joy is grounded in the fact that she was consistently loyal all of her life to our loyal and faithful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. MaMaw was a Christian! In fact, MaMaw is a Christian! Jesus, the eternal Son of God is the source of her greatness.
What is a Christian? A Christian is not just a good or moral person. Mark Twain once said, “Church (Christians) is good people standing in front of good people, telling them how to be good.” Mark Twain was wrong!
A Christian is someone, like MaMaw, who acknowledges they are not righteous or good (Romans 3:9-20), but they belong to God by faith in Jesus Christ, who is their perfect righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21), and therefore, they want to trust and obey Jesus everyday of their lives. Because MaMaw was forgiven by faith in Christ alone, she wanted to honor Him with all her life.
Jesus was the source of MaMaw’s exceptional life while she was on God’s Earth!
Because of MaMaw’s legacy and influence, I hope others will follow her example and trust fully the words of Jesus in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” As CS Lewis succinctly pointed out about such supernatural claims, “Jesus is Lord, liar or a lunatic!” The resurrection emphatically proclaims that He is the way, the truth and the life! The resurrection proclaims that Jesus Christ is Lord!
And because Jesus is the Lord of all, those of us who are trusting in Him, like MaMaw trusted in Him, can claim the kinds of wonderful and hopeful promises found in Romans 8:31-39.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
MaMaw is not dead, she is alive in Christ (Eph. 2:5). So let the memory of her life plead with you to trust Christ and live well for Christ. Be grateful and celebrate the life of MaMaw; a kind, consistent and loyal woman who knew God through Jesus. Trust in Him! Honor MaMaw by Honoring her Lord!