On Mother’s Day, I find myself reminiscing about the women in my life and, in particular, my paternal grandmother, with whom I spent countless hours when I was a young child. I grew up on a farm where my father and his father worked together to raise livestock and crops, while my mother assisted in ways small and large. My place, therefore, was with my grandmother—I called her Mamaw— most every day.
I see snapshots of those pre-school years through memory-perfect images in my head. Each morning, Mamaw would cook a farmer’s breakfast, eggs, bacon, biscuits from scratch, so that the men—her quick way of referring to my dad and Papaw—ate a hearty amount, as they’d already worked up an appetite from their morning chores. After clearing away breakfast, Mamaw began lunch preparation immediately, first by making two pie crusts from scratch, filling and topping them with other from-scratch goodness, like butterscotch topped with meringue. She fried chicken for lunch—chickens that were raised on our family farm; she was a tough, farm woman and her kitchen was a one-woman meal factory.
While all this busyness was buzzing in the kitchen, the television sounded from small, wood-paneled, sitting room with the voices of Pat Robertson, Rex Humbard, Billy Graham, Oral Roberts—the Christian televangelists my grandmother worshipped. It was about 1970, I was nearly six years old, and I heard her speak her support for Billy Graham crusades and the people who were being “born again.” She talked about Jesus a lot and asked when I was going to have personal relationship with Christ. Mamaw’s father, who had been a violent alcoholic, had himself been “born again,” and turned from his “worldly sins”; Mamaw expressed eternal gratitude that Christ had saved her father’s life.
My grandparents were both loving and strived to live a life that matched their understanding of God. They discouraged dancing and attending “Hollywood films” in movie theaters, believed in basic, orthodox Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, and attended church events, like evangelical Sunday School and revivals, every time the church doors were open. They were model church citizens. I never heard them express criticism of other people; rather, their deepest desire was to live a life that modeled their values so that their life was an invitation to others.
I was on my Mamaw’s salvation-invitation list. Every day, after lunch was over, cleanup followed and gave way to Mamaw’s first time to sit and rest, and it was in those times that she spoke aloud her deep sadness for all lost souls, for all starving children in Africa, for all sinners, for all who had forsaken God. These heavy subjects settled in my young mind and my small body and felt like sadness. My Mamaw’s sorrow about the world was her refrain. She believed that there was a absolute connection between the unsaved and their Earthly problems, and she expressed this every, single day to me, nearly begging me to answer the question, “when will [I] accept Jesus as my savior?”
By the time I was twelve, my Mamaw’s mental health was failing, and she had expressed thoughts of suicide. She experienced deep, depressive states, heard voices in her head, and was often despondent. Her faith, ironically, had created such heaviness that she could not make her way toward any light. Day after day, for so many years, she had focused her thoughts on the darkness in the world—disease, famine, injustice, human suffering—and, despite her fervent prayers and faithful giving, the evangelists kept asking her for more money, more faith, more repentance, and more humility.
My Mamaw gave all of that and more, until she was depleted of anything to give. The promises made by televangelists to believers of material, financial, physical, and spiritual success caused my Mamaw to conclude that she had not done enough. Somehow, she saw herself as being punished by God, because her pureness of heart and spirit was not enough to save the world.
My Mamaw could not find the light and carried the world on her shoulders, even though it did not fit: it was way too large; way too round to sit still on two, tough-but-bony shoulders; way too heavy for one woman’s job. She exposed her soul’s sadness in proclamations of how the world simply must be saved—saved from need, saved from emptiness, saved from its very own self.
Treatment for my Mamaw’s psychosis seemed brutal—electroshock therapy, in which seizures are electrically induced. She experienced severe confusion and memory loss, and after having these treatments every week for nearly a year, my Mamaw ceased to exist as I knew her.
What I see now so clearly is that my grandmother, had she been living a few decades later, would have been referred to as a lightworker, “someone who has an enormous draw to help others,” according to A Conscious Rethink magazine. In a February, 2017 article written by Catherine Winter, I was struck by how accurately the these particular descriptions of a lightworker defined my Mamaw.
My Mamaw had a, “keen awareness of the suffering of others," along with a, “pressing desire or need to help or heal others.” She took on pain on behalf of those whom her preachers cried out. Ultimately, my Mamaw's deep depression was too dark and, despite all efforts, nothing had a positive impact. She offered all she had to those who were living in anguish, and my suffering grandmother had simply run out of lightness.
Today, I celebrate this woman, my Mamaw, whose life taught me that I can choose to bring light into the dark spots. Her old model of suffering has given me the new model of infinite possibilities available to all of humanity. This means increasing my light and protecting my energy, so that I can continue to expand and shine for others. My Mamaw, a depleted and less-than-optimally-radiant lightworker, did what she knew to do, and her gift to me is that I see humans’ need to form their own inner connection to God, Divine Source, the Universe. I encourage you to seek this connection and let it bolster your personal energy so that your light makes a positive difference in the world.
Anella Wetter is a speaker, writer, empowerment & relationship coach, and believer in the magic of life. You can connect with her at http://anellawetter.com.