The story goes in our family that my Dad married my Mom for her grandmother, Edna Cook. It may have been Edna’s homemade pies and caramel corn that kept him visiting her every week for the year my mother was gone serving overseas, but I believe it was her quiet spirit of faithfulness, carved out of hardship, that he was continually drawn towards.
Normally when we think of All Saints’ Day, we consider the “big” saints, like St. Theresa of Avila or St. Augustine. And while those men and women of faith are wonderful examples of the transformative power of the Spirit, we sometimes forget to honor the faithful saints touching our daily lives.
Edna Cook was my great-grandmother, a hero in our family. Schooled only through 10th grade, she married at age 17 as the Great Depression began. Life was challenging for everyone at that time. But just when things should have looked up after World War II, Edna’s difficulties became very personal. After three children, she gave birth to a son who had rH complications; he never developmentally progressed beyond an infant stage.
And then, when the child was about three, her husband fell off a windmill, breaking his back, laying him up for a year. She had no money, an incapacitated husband, a child requiring 24/7 care, and no way of earning an income. Two years later, her son died. But Edna made it through these difficulties because of her great faith.
Edna prayed for each of her children, grandchildren, and great-grand-children by name, every single day of their lives. She taught Sunday School for decades. After selling the farm, she and her family eventually bought a small country store. She allowed people with difficulties to buy groceries on credit, even though she knew she would never get paid. One of my mom’s friends later acknowledged that her family, which had six children, would have starved if it had not been for Edna’s generosity.
Edna also had her own ministry of writing letters – writing weekly letters to each of her grandchildren in college or on the mission field and monthly letters to every missionary her church and nursing home supported. She also wrote a weekly letter to one of my mom’s friends who spent 20 years in prison.
In 2016, I painted this picture of my great-grandmother standing in Bakersfield, California’s poppy flowers as a way to honor her great faithfulness, the way her life reflected her core faith. She loved Jesus and gave greatly because her heart was always invested in the economy of Christ. Edna’s story inspires me not to undermine the little things we can do for the Kingdom. It’s about being aware of the needs around us and using the little we may have to love each other.