My wife and children and I picked cherries, filling up plastic bags, as Grandma also picked some. Grandma was happy as we all worked to harvest the tree that grew in her small front yard.
We ate cherries as we picked and laughed together. Grandma told stories of my mother and uncle picking cherries decades before from the same tree.
As we picked, I had a sinking feeling this could be the last time we would pick cherries with Grandma. But at the same time my heart was filled with gratefulness that my children got to experience time with my Grandma, their Grandma and the love she had for children and really anyone in want.
Grandma always had something to give to her own and outsiders. The more in want someone was, the more she had to give. The cherry tree was a simple testament to Grandmas charitable heart. Any passerby might have all the cherries they wanted to eat, even harvesting some to take along, and Grandma wouldn’t mind.
Although the cherries were enjoyed by strangers, the tree wasn’t planted for them. The tree was planted for Grandma’s children and grandchildren by Grandma herself.
When my grandparents bought the home to raise their family in and run their business out of, Grandma planted the tree with the express intent of growing a tree for generations to pick cherries from.
Grandma had a wisdom about giving and loving. When my wife and I were young newlyweds and had experienced some financial success, Grandma invited us over to give some advise. She said, “don’t expect or ask for repayment of whatever you lend to friend and family, consider it in your heart a gift and never bring it up whether it’s repaid or not”. She went on to explain that friendship and family are more important than money, and that there’s always more money, but not always more family or friends.
My wife and I took that to heart over the years and have followed it as a rule, to the benefit of many relationships in our life.
My grandparents owned an appliance business of which I grew up working in over summer breaks.
Many a time I can remember overhearing Grandma discounting or giving away appliances to some poor single mother or family in poverty. I remember her never charging any pastor or church for an appliance, no matter their affiliation.
That’s not to say her business skills were lacking, on the contrary, Grandma was a shrewd and profitable woman, always seeing business opportunity. She would negotiate down to the last penny on her purchases and hold the line on every negotiation.
But if those that lost to her in negotiations only knew the secret, which was if Grandma thought them in need or want, mistreated in way, she would have given up her position in an instant. Grandma was the perpetual champion of the underdog.
The squirrels knew. As a teenager I remember arriving at Grandma’s house as she fed the squirrels from her hand. They would climb up her leg, onto her lap for her to hand feed them nuts and treats. She had the neighborhood squirrels as lap pets whenever she was outside. The neighborhood cats knew too, as she would leave food out or milk for any cat that seemed to her in need.
That was Grandma; she always had something, some money or food, for anyone in need. She had someone’s rent payment, electric bill, ready to pay for them whenever they asked. Some might say she was being used, but she would say she loved.
Grandma’s cherry tree is dead now, it died the winter she was buried. Those cherries we picked together with her were the last anyone would eat of that tree’s fruit. It died, the leaves fell and branches turned brittle. The tree, like Grandma, is gone now.
The tree is gone, but the gesture of love remains. The memories and the legacy live on. Grandma has gone on, but the love and values live on, and hopefully we, her children, will love and give as she did; loving the least of these.