Have you thought about your influence continuing even after you’re dead? My grandmother’s legacy lives on, her existence leaving a lasting impression that still speaks to me today.
Grandma Kocher left her mark in many ways. Her first husband, my grandfather Chester Sheldon, taught school in Prosser, Washington in the late 1920s. One of our family heirlooms is a photo of him with his students lined up on the schoolhouse steps. Two of the children have x’s penciled above their heads, my aunt and uncle. Years later Grandma deepened the x’s with a ballpoint pen.
We also found Grandma’s marks on used envelopes, receipts, paper bags, and in the margins of ancient Grit newspapers. It seemed whenever she found enough white space she’d fill it with verse, sharpening her pencil stub with a dull kitchen knife. She added a poem to her recipe for making soap which attests to its ability to remove dirt from most anything—the last sentence pointing the way to Jesus for cleansing from sin.
Until I searched through her Bible, I didn’t know she’d marked it so much. This surprised me. Grandma was careful with her possessions, a habit she learned from living decades with scarcity. She saved everything, clipping zippers and buttons from worn out clothing to store for later use. Empty, hand-washed peanut butter jars lined the shelf on her back porch. One of the few toys she had in the house was a plastic surprise from a cereal box, which we played with for years. As much as Grandma loved God and learning, it’s incredible that she would add wear and tear to her beloved Bible.
But now I understand. I, too, study the most wonderful of books, applying what it’s saying to my heart, underscoring the parts I most want to remember.
I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;Job 23:12 NKJV
I have treasured the words of his mouth
more than my necessary food.
Did Grandma know that her Bible would be appreciated by others after she was gone? Probably not. I do know that I never felt more closely related to her than when I pored through her Bible, seeing which scriptures she dwelt on the most, finding a love note and a photo of my father.
Here are her thoughts in her own words (taped on an opening page):
I know the precious old Bible is just about outworn. For many words are dimmed, and many pages are torn.
But to me ’tis very precious. It came from friends most dear; when days seemed dark and cheerless, has bro’t me hope and cheer.
God says to read his word, to store it in the heart. Then thro’ life’s long journey He never shall from us part.
So I thank God for my Bible, and for the dear class friends who presented this Book to me. We shall be reunited when this present world shall end.Ina E. Kocher
Grandma’s Bible is also full of unreadable scrawlings, dimmed with age like the x’s in the school picture. She wrote new notes over the top of them, always learning, probing for understanding. There are tears encircling the book, probably from being bound by a rubber band to hold in its detached pages and other treasures. Her last picture taken with Grandpa is one of them. She wrote on the back, “Sam and Ina Kocher. Our last one taken together, in 1972. It is very precious to me.”
It’s sad to think of pages and photos deteriorating, Grandma’s story lost from memory. But her legacy lives on, not of paper and leather, pencil and ink. It lies in the words she hungered for, giving her strength to live as she did, leaving marks in my life that will not fade.
Kathy Sheldon Davis