By Craig Wilson
I started this quarter discussing the need for competence, courage, passion & perseverance to be successful. To persevere requires embodying Winston Churchill’s motto, “Never, never, never give up!” It also requires grace, to forgive ourselves for our own mistakes, and also to forgive those who have made our path harder. This gives us the energy focus on our goals and to help others achieve their goals along with us.
My grandmother exemplified this behavior to all she met. To the end of her life she was gracious and loving, even though her path was far from smooth. She was also daring to try new things and was never too old to start a new career. At the age of 75 on a challenge from my cousin she began a new career as an actor in advertisements.
11 years ago I was leading a para-church group in a retreat and was asked to give a talk on perseverance. My grandmother had died a few months before and gave me inspiration for the introduction to my talk on perseverance. Here it is:
Last Thanksgiving Eve my grandmother, as we like to say, went home to be with the Lord. A couple of months earlier she was diagnosed with stomach cancer. When the doctor began to discuss the options and procedures they perform, she stopped him and said, “I have lived 87 years. I’ve had a good, long life, and I don’t want to live my last days sick and in pain from treatments and surgery.”
As long as I can remember Grandma embodied love. She always had a smile, and quick laugh. Her apartment was an oasis for me, a warm, loving place where I always desired to stay longer at. Looking back I realize the apartment was a cramped dormer above a small house. As an adult I realize her love had to come from a source greater than her own inner strength. She was truly an extraordinary person.
Anna Brusdahl was born in Bergen, Norway March 13, 1913. At the age of 3 her father died during an influenza epidemic. Two weeks later, her mother died. Her mother’s sister and husband agreed to take Anna in. So, having lost both parents, Anna traveled by ship America and came to live in Duluth. Her aunt and uncle adopted her, but she was never really accepted as a sibling in her new family.
After high school she married. Her husband was in the Coast Guard, serving on the Great Lakes. They moved frequently, and her husband was gone quite often. When he was home it was apparent that he was an alcoholic and became increasingly abusive. When the abuse began spreading to the children, she made the difficult decision to divorce. In 1945, with five children ranging from 13 to 5, she moved back to Duluth.
These were times before court-ordered child support, and community and church alike looked on unapprovingly at a divorced mother. Having never worked outside the home, my grandmother struggled to find work to provide for her family. Somehow, they always got by. Through the struggle, her faith grew, and her loving nature continued to flourish.
Grandma found a steady job at Sears. When they closed her unit in Duluth, she moved to White Bear Lake, where she again went to work for Sears. When that store closed, undaunted and courageous, she became a house mother for a sorority at the U of M, giving the students a thrill on University Avenue as she “peeled out” in her AMC Javelin, complete with a 390 V-8. Finally, years after retirement, she took up acting after my cousin challenged her after Grandma complained about the actors in TV commercials. I’ll always treasure the memory of her driving away in a red Corvette in a Super America commercial. However, the pervasive memory of Grandma was her abiding love. That was her essence. That love permeated through to all she touched, and gave her the perseverance to overcome any obstacles in her path.
How do we embody that love my grandma had so that it fuels us?
How do we forgive those who make our lives more difficult so that we don’t expend energy on how we’ve been wronged rather than on how we can achieve our goals?
Here are the links to some of her ads:
Super America ad:
Famous Barr ads (A department store in St. Louis):
This will be the last topic for the quarter. Next quarter I’ll write about the unlikely leader. This is a concept about the fact that most don’t choose to be leaders yet find themselves in positions of leading people.
Enjoy and Keep on Keepin’ on,