It is coming up on a year now since my maternal grandmother left this earth in a violent battle and came face to face with the God who loves and saves. I was there nearly until the end. That last week of her life, particularly the night I spent alone at her bedside remain some of the most treasured and heartbreaking moments in my memories. (documented here)
And five years ago this summer, I was at another bedside, this time watching my paternal grandmother fight her restraints in an ICU room in a Kansas City hospital. She would pass only a few days after into her Savior’s arms, and with her went a lifetime of stoic and steadfast love.
I remember those two women with great fondness. My Grandma Ruth, stout and fearless, buried two husbands and farmed her whole life and lived this solid kind of life. My Grandma Nora, private and serious, lived the life of a military wife married to a good and wild man, and raised babies and bread with the same quiet reserve. They taught me something of what it is to be a lady and wife and lover and a fighter and a solid presence in the lives of those you love.
I am filled with memories of both their deaths and their lives on bread-making days. The meticulous measurements and the kneading of dough and the waiting…I feel their reminders all about me as I bake bread. Grandma Nora turned out the best bread and rolls without consulting a cookbook and I would watch in awe at her Formica kitchen table while her delicate hands turned and twisted ordinary masterpieces. And Grandma Ruth’s sourdough starter made the best biscuits in the land. She would barely get her hands washed from milking cows before she just had to dig into a bowl of flour and get breakfast going in cast iron skillets.
In an homage to the women from which I come, I bake bread. Eaters of my grandmother bread recipe are guaranteed a tear or two mixed up in the dough. It is not an act of sorrow, but a mark of joy. For I am grateful to know my history and to have such beautiful women in that history who lived full. So I bake bread.