As many of you know, my Grandma, Edna Caroline Wiesman Birkholz, died on Sunday morning, January 31, 2016. I wrote this blog about her nearly four years ago, on her 90th birthday, and I wanted to repost it a couple days before her memorial service to remember her (where her paschal candle will be lit).
This past weekend, we had an event on the calendar in Tennessee that we just could not miss.
My grandma turned 90 years old.
Her party was on Saturday afternoon and many of her friends and family. She wore pink, she had a pink cake and pink cupcakes, and lots of balloons, flowers, and good wishes.
My grandma may be 90, but she had more energy than many of her children and grandchildren on Saturday. She’s also very, very Lutheran.
She was born on a farm in Wisconsin, and was the 7th of 8 children. Her parents spoke German and the first church she remembers attending, German was still spoken for some services. For her wedding to my grandpa, she rode the train by herself down from Wisconsin to Texas, a war bride marrying her husband and then not seeing him for four years.
She sent every single one of her children through confirmation, and that means hardcore catechism classes every Saturday morning (my dad would tell awful stories about having to take three buses to get there). They drove into Knoxville from Loudon, a 40 minute drive then, every Sunday so they could worship at the only Lutheran Church for miles. As far as I know, my grandma hasn’t missed church maybe ever.
For her gift, because what do you give a 90 year old who’s got everything? we gave her a paschal candle for their new little Lutheran church at the lake.
In the words of most people, even Lutherans: “What’s a paschal candle?”
When the candle was unveiled for my grandma, she had no such question. She raised her hands to her face, and cried. She looked like she had won the lottery.
My grandma knew that the candle symbolized baptism. She knew that it would be lit on the day of funerals, and on Easter, and when we celebrate baptisms and Jesus’ baptism. It is a candle of hope, and of life, and it is prominent in our worship life as a symbol of all of those things. And my grandma knew instantly what a beautiful symbol this was and in honor of her own long life.
I’ll never forget her face, crying for only the third time I’ve ever seen her cry, at this great gift that most of the world wouldn’t even understand, and I thought, “These are my people. This is where I come from.” What a blessing.