Jul 31, 2011

Eva Isabelle Blann, 1920-2011

Proverbs 31:10-31
A wife of noble character who can find?
  She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
  and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
  all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax
  and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
  bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
  she provides food for her family
  and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;
  out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
  her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
  and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
  and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
  and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
  for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
  she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
  where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
  and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
  she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
  and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
  and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
  her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
  but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
  but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
  and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

I've heard Proverbs 31 many times in my life.  As a man, I was encouraged to find a "Proverbs 31 Woman."  This chapter paints a picture of this extraordinary creature who seemingly does it all - and looks good doing it.  Naturally, guys WOULD gravitate towards this chapter.  I mean, who wouldn't want someone like that?  Women, unfortunately, have been saddled with living up to this chick for millennia.  Her children may rise up and called her blessed.  But future generations call her "troublemaker" and "curve wrecker."

When I was thinking about the life of Eva Blann, it was harder for me to put into words all that I wanted to say.  When her husband, H John Blann, passed away two years ago (almost exactly two years), the words just flowed out like my tears.  I had spent so much time with him that it just poured out.  But when I tried to put a point to my thoughts on Grandma Blann, it wasn't so easy.  It wasn't because I didn't love her as much.  She was as dear to me as my own flesh and blood family.  She treated me just like her biological grandchildren, even though I was an in-law.  And we had many conversations as well.  But it just wasn't as simple to express.

When Grandma passed away earlier, the first thing to popped to mine was Proverbs 31.  And finally I knew what to say.  I think my confusion came because there was SO MUCH to put down.  As I read through that passage again, I saw Grandma's picture emerging through every line.  From the very beginning, about being a woman of good character.  This was not ever in doubt.  Grandma was the most noble woman of high character I could ever imagine.  I remember any time a joke even approached some sort of line, she would just smile and say, "Oh my," or "Oh my stars."  Heather has told me about when she was a child that Grandma sat the kids down and gave them a lecture on the meanings of euphemisms when one of the kids dared to say "gosh."

Her husband has full confidence in her.  She brings him only good and no harm.  I cannot even imagine a couple that were closer than Eva and John.  They were just a set.  But this is also one area that helped me to know why it was hard to figure out my thoughts.  All that time I spent with Grandpa - she was there just about every time.  She may have been in the kitchen and we were in the living room.  Or she was in the living room and we were in the kitchen.  Or she was sitting in her chair reading and not even listening to what we were saying.  (Or so it appeared.)  She knew he had stuff to do.  He needed to minister to me - and she let him.  She stepped back and let him do it, but was right there the whole time.  It takes an amazing amount of grace to be a pastor's wife.  She did it better than just about anyone.  She enhanced his ministry because she brought so much to the proverbial table and took absolutely nothing off it.

All the lines about wool and flax and making coverings for the bed just made me think of Grandma.  Every one of her grandchildren have an afghan she crocheted for them.  There were always blankets and clothes around the house that she had made.  When it talks about grasping the spindle with her fingers, I can't help of think about Grandma's hands.  She played the piano, she crocheted, she cooked, she worked hard.  Her hands were always working (vigorously, like the proverb says).  The thing that amazed me when I found it out was that she had nine fingers.  This endlessly fascinated my kids, especially the story of how she lost the tenth one.  She got bit by a snake while serving as a missionary in Africa.  And she lost her finger.  But that never seemed to affect her at all.  She did more with nine fingers than most did with ten.  And most people probably never even knew one was gone.

She gets up when it is night.  By the the time I rolled into the picture, Grandma and Grandpa were up in years.  And, as is required for all older people, they got up at Oh Dark Thirty.  They were up very early and eating breakfast.  They also used their early mornings to pray for their family.  They had a notebook with every family member's name in it.  And they prayed for all of them every day.  They also prayed for friends and missionaries and pastors and leaders and anyone else you asked them to.  That's how they operated.

So many other little phrases just jump out to me.  Opens her arms to the poor.  She speaks with wisdom. She watches over her household - and can tell you exactly when the garage went up when you got home.  It was like the passage was written about this woman.  She did all of those things.  She never knew a stranger.  Grandma and Grandpa knew everyone who worked at the neighborhood Wendy's.  They greeted them every time they went there and talked to them like they had grown up on the same block.  This was Wendy's, people.  She didn't care.  Those people needed love and Grandma was going to love on them.

And when this tremendous woman's life is over, her children do arise and call her blessed.  Two weeks ago, all four of her children were down to see Grandma.  They came to spend some final time with this incredible lady.  The woman who watched her new husband leave on a boat to serve in Africa, knowing she wouldn't see him for months - if everything went well.  The woman who delivered a breech baby in an African field hospital.  The woman who raised four of the godliest people I have ever met.  She never stopped being that woman.  She used to spend time with my kids drawing and reading.  My youngest one, Gabe, had a special place in his heart for her.  He used to come crawl up into her lap in the recliner on Sundays waiting for lunch and have her read books to him.  He would pretend to "fix" her walker with a toy wrench.  And she loved it.  The staff at the assisted living facility she has lived in for the last few years were so heartbroken at the thought of this lady passing away that they desperately clutched at any hope to keep her there.  But you can't cure old age.  And time runs out for every one of us.  It was time for her to go home to see her Heavenly Father and be reunited with her husband.  And it was time for us to say goodbye.

You can't just say goodbye to someone like that.  The loss of a person that is so incredible just leaves a gaping hole in your life.  You know it is inevitable.  And in some ways you are glad, just because they aren't suffering any more.  But there is a gaping space where they used to be.  And then you look around and realize that they are a part of your entire life.  There are the physical mementos, like the old books and gifts she has given you over the years.  And there are the memories that flood back.  But a big part of it is the very foundation on which you stand.  She helped to lay that through her sacrifice and love and teaching and serving.  It wasn't ever flashy.  But it was always meaningful.  It always communicated the love of God.  It may have just seemed like a peach jello salad brought to a Sunday lunch to a random observer.  But it was so much more than that.  It was the fact that she remembered that the husband of one of her seventeen grandchildren loved that peach jello salad.  And she knew that he and his family were going to be in town for lunch that day.  And she wanted him to feel loved.  And so she made it and brought it over.  She gave him a big hug, like every time she saw him.  She saw his big smile at the salad and smiled back.  Then she quietly went in the kitchen so that he could spend time with her husband - knowing how desperately he needed to have someone like that invest time in his life.  And she prayed for him to get what he needed as she helped set the table.

THAT'S a woman worth praising.  That is the kind of woman I hope my daughter grows up to be like.  That is the kind of woman I hope my sons are blessed enough to marry.  That is the kind of woman that I was fortunate enough to marry and that I thank God every day for.  [She learned how to be that kind of woman at the feet of her mother (another example of that kind of woman) and her grandmother.]  That is the kind of woman that never sees the limelight and never seeks it.  But she will be the happiest person in the world if you gain it.  (And she'll also remind you of the dangers of spending too much time in it.)  I thank God I had a chance to be a part of her life.  And I know I am a better person because she was a part of mine.


Tamara said...

In Your rest where all Your saints repose, O Lord, give rest also to the soul of Your servant Eva. (My Great Aunt Eva, a Saint Triumphant, militant no more.)

Paul D Wilson said...

Precious comment on a dear saint of God!

We have known the Blann family ever since our years in Africa.

We remember the snake incident - even though we were in South Africa.

My dad, Ermal Wilson was the Field Superintendent of the Africa area Pilgrim Holiness Church at the time.

I was most amazed at how she learned to play the piano / organ again without that finger!