On Tuesday, March 3rd, I lost my Grandma. She was the most incredible woman I think that I will ever know. She was so many things I’m not going to even begin to describe her, but hope you get a sense of who she was in the following paragraphs. My sister and I were asked to write the Eulogy that my Dad would read at the funeral. I was honored, blessed, and incredibly humbled to be able to sit down with my mom and sister and try to put into words what a wonderful woman Grandma was. When we were brainstorming, trying to think of where to even begin, I started thinking about Grandma’s hands, and how many things they did. We took that idea and ran with it. Here’s what came out of those ideas and memories. I hope you enjoy it. I think it’s beautiful.
Ruth M. Cornell
March 11, 1926- March 3, 2009
I can still feel her hands guiding mine as she sat with me for hours on end trying to teach me how to knit. Making up rhymes to try to teach the pattern, and letting me pick out my favorite colored yarn, even if it were two of the most obnoxious colors. She didn’t care. It was these moments of creating that I will cherish forever. Creating mittens, creating memories. Mom was a woman of many gifts, many friends, many stories, and many lives touched. How do I begin to share the many things she was? Much of her story is found in her hands. It was her hands that were always folded committed to prayer. Prayers for her friends, her family, for strangers…she was always praying. It was her hands that made countless loaves of her infamous rye bread. With each loaf, kneading in extra love…, which I’ve determined is her secret ingredient that will never be matched. And I think she used the same in her chocolate chip cookies, which were always on hand in case someone stopped by. Back in 1950 mom was all set to go to Africa to become a missionary. A young pastor named Andy asked her out and knew he had to act fast. He asked her to marry him on their first date. She didn’t say yes right away but shortly she was as much in love with him as he was with her, and became the wife of Reverend Andrew Cornell. She and Andy held hands together in marriage for 19 years until his sudden death in 1969, but today we know that she and dad have once again joined hands. We all know, some better than others, that after dad’s death she most certainly had her hands full. Full with three boys she raised with love, discipline, and a lot of peanut butter and patience. Though along the way, there were holes kicked in the walls that even today all three of us deny we knew anything about, bruises on the knees, broken bones and tears cried when we lost dad when mom was only 43. She not only raised three boys aged 16, 14 and 9 alone from there on, but tried her best to raise them as gentlemen. And who can forget the hands that knit hundreds if not thousands of pairs of mittens and afghans! And similar to her prayers, her mittens and afghans were for her friends, her family, her neighbors, and even strangers. Lives around the world were changed because of her faithful donations to “Harvest of Hands”. Mom too, had ‘the whole world in her hands’ as she joined close friends on many travel adventures around the world. Her journeys with ‘the golden girls’ were full of stories, souvenirs, laughter, and memories that will last far beyond a lifetime. She served as a secretary for many years in the Buffalo schools where her hands were busy typing. One story goes that a sophomore named Amy at Buffalo High School made her way down to the school office and saved a hall pass signed by “Mrs. Cornell”. She secretly hoped that perhaps someday she too would be able to sign her name the same and bear it with the dignity and respect that mom did. Through the years, mom struggled with a host of illnesses. We could sit here all day and tell stories about the lives her hands have touched in spite of the ugliness of polio, multiple bouts of breast cancer, a brain tumor and brain hematoma, heart disease and diabetes. Eventually, her hands became twisted with arthritis, yet she still kept trying to remember how to cast on for one more pair of mittens…and didn’t let physical limitations detract from her ability to mentor and comfort anyone who needed it. And the hand that played the greatest role in her life was that of her Heavenly Father. Though she loved life with a passion and was in no hurry to leave this world, I suspect that when Jesus came this past Tuesday and took her hand to lead her home, she experienced a joy that none of us yet know, but that she prayed with folded hands each day we eventually will.