Grace Savage | The Morganton Years

Grace Savage was skeptical of anything that came from north of the Mason Dixon Line. She had heard about me and welcomed me into her home for the interrogation. I sat at one end of her living room, and she sat at the other. Above her head were the six-foot long horns from a Texas Long Horn.

She quizzed me on my theology. Why do bad things happen to good people? I passed my ordination exam in theology with flying colors, so I gave her my best Princeton-Seminary-educated answer. It included the line about Jesus being the best person who also suffered. I thought that I had done well. Her response, “No, that’s wrong,” she said, “Snake! I’ll have to teach you a thing or two.”

Having failed theology, we moved on to geography. “Where are you from?” “Iowa.” She didn’t know what to do with that! She said, “Do you like grits? Do you like collard greens? Black-eyed peas?” I said, “No, mam. Up north we won the war and could eat things that taste good.” She shot me a look, then she smiled at me and shook her head. I was in!

Grace would tell me stories of having grown up without any money, but “we didn’t know we didn’t have any money.” She told me about hunting for roots and taking them home for her mom to cook. “Is that something you would put between the peanut butter and jelly on your sandwich?” I asked with a smile. She just shook her head from side to side.

“Grace, I brought you lunch and dinner!” I had pulled up an eight-inch-long dandelion root from my yard and handed it over to her. “I may just serve it to you right now!” she retorted.

Grace often talked about the days after her husband died. She said, ”I used to sit right here in this chair and wonder why there was still traffic in front of the house.” She gifted me with that statement. I have held onto it as I crossed the threshold to visit the newest widow or widower. Love can be so deep, so rare and so rich that when it disappears, the world must stop and feel the loss.

One day Grace fell at home and broke her neck. When I came to the hospital to visit her, she was in a bed with a halo brace on that looked like it weighed twice as much as she did, frail thing that she was. She went directly from the hospital to a nursing home, where she bunked up with a young woman, who was also a member of my congregation. She was named Lindy and had been diagnosed with hydrocephalus a number of years before. Grace and Lindy would team up against me when I came in the door for a visit. I was fairly certain that they planned their well-choreographed assault over the weeks between my visits. My only response was that “I had my ego to protect me.” “That’s for sure!” they would gleefully respond.

On one visit, I knew it to be my last with Grace. My throat ached at the sight of such a frail one. Lindy and I shared a prayer together. Surely the traffic will stop.