Some say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, as if people and things are beautiful only if we think they are. I don’t think so. A fresh flower is itself beautiful. Who sees a colorful sunset or a waterfall in the woods reflecting rays of sunshine and claims that its beauty depends on beholders? My Grandmother, Margaret Icylon Solliday (1909 – 2003), was just beautiful. If you could not see it, you needed new beholders!
Grandma grew up in the Sooner State (OK) because her dad, Bud Spurgeon, took part in a famous Land Rush on the Cherokee Strip in the 1890s and staked his claim there. Little Margaret was a rough and tumble girl who lived, worked and played hard. Her farmer father was the only one who could call her, “Maggie!”
Margaret met her future husband (my grandfather) when he came to town as a preaching intern. They married in 1928 and my dad (“Horace, Jr.”) was their first baby boy. He once said of his mom, “She never embarrassed us in front of others, though we must have embarrassed her at times.” Four more children followed and Margaret filled her multiple roles (preacher’s wife, mother of five, Sunday School teacher, softball pitcher, popular conference speaker, family manager, Bible study leader, and benefactor to the needy) with grace. Se studied the Bible every morning and went to bed with the Kitchen Klatter magazine. Thus, her family always knew they would soon sample a new recipe. Horace and Margaret Solliday supported each other through thirteen different ministries in such states as Texas, Illinois, Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Iowa.
Most of us know only a tiny fraction of her kindnesses over the years. She had nary a harsh word for others, yet we knew it when she disapproved of something that wasn’t right. She had a wonderful way of mixing character qualities that don’t mix easily, like frugality and generosity; obedience and grace; tolerance and conviction. She left to her loved ones a four-fold legacy that is nicely captured in the four following words:
- In 1986, at my Grandfather’s funeral, I sang a song about hope and I can still picture Grandma on the second row, with a deep grief over her loss on her face but also a beaming with affection for me in her tearful smile. After the services, our family made a large half-circle around Grandpa’s casket. Grandma broke loose from the supportive hands holding her up (her sons; Horace, Harry and David) and approached the frail frame of the man she loved. Fifty-nine years ago, she promised him, “till death do us part.” She leaned down and kissed him goodbye, having kept her promise. To his credit, my Grandpa knew her beauty, inside and out, was more than just a beholder’s opinion. Faithfulness to her family was just one of the many ways she lived out her faith in God. She trusted in things mere beholders cannot see. A Bible scholar in her own right, her knowledge reached her heart too.
- After suffering some strokes, Grandma was getting to the point where she could not finish sentences or various tasks. Yet, at a family reunion three years before she passed, she saw me washing dishes and it did not sit right with her. As was her way, she got up and shushed me out of the kitchen with a clear sentence telling me to go have some fun. She would mind the kitchen. I could hardly resist since she made herself so wonderfully clear. I looked back and saw her standing in a state of confusion over what to do next. She had long programmed herself for unselfishness and this virtue was still working in her on auto-pilot. My heart swelled with pride and affection. I shared this wonderful grandmother with Mindy Louscher, my cousin, who recalls setting her baby son Landon on his great grandmother’s lap and being told to go have fun while she minded the kids. Mindy knew Grandma was no longer able to fulfill that desire, yet that unselfish desire still lived in her heart. How many of us are programmed that well for unselfishness?
- Grandma loved many people and so many loved her. She was well known for her kindness to the needy. I remember a rather “challenged” and challenging man who roamed the streets in her little town of Hamburg, Iowa. He knew he could find a friendly face, a helping hand and a simple meal at my Grandma’s house. And if you fear that such friendliness was risky, let me remind you that Margaret was as tough a “tom-boy” as Oklahoma ever produced. She could handle most any horse with confidence, she raised five kids, she spoke at conferences, and she knew how to handle church committees and elders. Fear would not hamper her compassion. Grandma taught us much about love.
- Life was brighter around Margaret. As a child, Matthew Schaffner (another grandson), remembers how at Grandma’s place, the strawberries were always better, the crayons brighter and the pie juicier. One of my last memories of Grandma was of her in a wheelchair at her nursing home beaming with gladness at the sight of her grandson coming toward her. She could not finish sentences but she sure could still shine! Like a fresh flower in a field, God gave her the power to shine, making her beautiful, inside and out.
Grandma’s legacy of Faithfulness, Unselfishness, Love and Light creates an acronym: “F.U.L.L.” Her life was truly full and our lives are too for having known and loved her. Margaret budded on earth (for 94 years) to bloom in heaven.
The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.