On Ground Hogs and Grandmas

Jack Harnish

Ok…here it comes again.  The holiday we need most, right when we need it in the midst of winter.  Next week the furry fellow from Punxsutawney will poke his nose out of his cozy burrow and predict the coming of spring or the lingering winter.  My prediction is he will see his shadow and crawl right back in for another six weeks of winter.  At least here in northern Michigan it’s a pretty sure thing, but either way, it gives us a holiday to celebrate and something to look forward to in the depths of our snowy season.  I enjoy Ground Hog Day for another reason as well.  It was my Grandmother’s Birthday.


Grandma Luella was actually our step-grandmother, but she was the only grandmother my cousins and I had ever known.  Our original grandmother died of a heart attack just days after receiving word that her son Jim had been shot down over Holland during the Second World War.  They say she died of a broken heart and I believe it.  Gramps was alone for a good number of years and then he met Luella.  She had 7 grown kids of her own whom she had raised on her own—she was one tough lady!  And she was also one of the most loving, gentle women I have ever met.  With all those other children and grandchildren, she still had plenty of room in her heart for more and she took us all in.  Grandma lived to be 100 and celebrated her birthday with a wide assortment of her many grandchildren gathered round.  It was a joy to be one of them.  That was Ground Hog day.  Then in April she went into the hospital for the first time in her life and by May she was gone, as if she decided 100 was good enough and gentle said goodbye.


The “Faith Matters” story I want to tell was a few years earlier when I went back to Pennsylvania to preach in my home church.  Grandma was a Lutheran and every Sunday Uncle Frank would pick her up to take her to church, but that Sunday she came to the Methodist Church to hear her grandson the preacher.  After the service I gave her a hug and said “Grandma, could you hear me?”  And she smiled and said, “No, not really, but then I can’t hear my pastor either.”  Of course, it argues the importance of the hearing loop in the sanctuary, but more importantly, it’s the story of her faith, her commitment to her church and on that Sunday her love for me—she kept showing up, even if she couldn’t hear the preacher.  Every Sunday with Uncle Frank, in her pew. Like the ground hog, she just kept showing up, snow or sun, rain or shine, Sunday after Sunday. Because her church mattered.  Because her faith mattered. So regardless of what the Ground Hog says, we just keep showing up, because our faith matters too.


Rev. Dr. Jack Harnish, Author