Accio Jacksons!

An 11-inch holly blog with a phoenix feather core

Mary Nelson, 1920–2009

by Rebecca on 2009-10-18

Family photo

I found out on Friday morning that my grandma, Mary Nelson (standing next to me in the picture), had passed away on Thursday night. Her passing was not altogether unexpected, since her health and mental abilities had declined in recent months. It is still a bittersweet time for our family as we reflect on the woman that she was and the legacy that she left behind.

Emilyʼs middle name, Maryann, is taken partly from Grandma Nelson. Thatʼs because she was an amazing woman! She grew up on a ranch in Bozeman, Montana, but also lived in Minnesota, Louisiana, and Texas. Her first husband was killed in World War II (my engagement ring contains the diamond from her ring), and she married my grandpa several years later.

She was raised Episcopal and didnʼt join the LDS Church until after my mom was born. However, because their branch in Louisiana was so small, she was enlisted to service even before she was baptized. When she finally agreed to be baptized, my grandpa was so excited that he forgot how to get to the church! She remained faithful to the gospel all her life, serving in many church callings and working as a temple worker in the Atlanta Temple with Grandpa before his death in 1994. She was always proud of being a 100% visiting teacher for over 50 years. (Personally, I think thatʼs worth a crown in heaven right there.) And she befriended many, many missionaries who passed through her ward over the years.

She taught home economics and food science classes at the university level. And she was a wonderful cook and a gracious hostess. I remember when we drove to Louisiana for Thanksgiving, she would always have a hot meal and set table waiting for us on Wednesday night, even though the next day would be a big day of cooking and baking. My mom learned how to make pies (and many other tasty treats) from her, and some of our family favorite desserts come from Grandmaʼs recipe book. She borrowed from the cuisine of her adopted home state of Louisiana and made divinity and pralines like no other, as well as other Southern classics.

I will also remember how Grandma played the piano and the organ beautifully. Mom and I recently found her music stash, and she could play anything in those books. Even after she moved to Texas, the ward called her to play the piano in Relief Society, in her mid-80s. And she would do it, even though she was starting to forget, just because thatʼs what the Church was all about.

Grandma was most devoted to her family. As children, we always loved to see Grandma and Grandpa. Because they lived so far away, it was a special treat when they would come visit us. Grandma sent us packages and letters to let us know that she loved us and missed us. She was close to her sister and her nieces and nephews all her life. My mom is an only child, so she and Grandma had a relationship that evolved over the years. Mom spent much of her time over the last five years as Grandmaʼs caretaker, which was a tremendous strain on her and Grandma as her faculties gradually slipped away. However, I hope that Momʼs memories of those difficult years will gradually become sweet and that she will find her selfless service accepted.

When I think of Grandmaʼs passing, the phrase that comes into my mind is “joyous reunion in heaven.” I canʼt help but think of how many people are waiting on the other side for her and saying, “Welcome home, Mary. Itʼs so wonderful to see you again, and we have so much to talk about!”

I will miss my grandma.