Many of these recipes are from my childhood where my Grandmother instilled in me a love of cooking and showing your love to your family through good food and a properly set table.

My grandmother was an amazing woman. She lived her life with the courage and purpose that most people strive for. She had an incredible spirit that persevered through anything.

 Her life began in 1932 in Aiken County, South Carolina. She was the youngest of 5 surviving children and the only girl. She was known as ‘Sis’ by those closest to her. She lost her father, William Watson Ward, at age 2 and her mother, Mary Chavious Ward, at age 11.

Her mother had remarried and her step-father,”Uncle Bennie”, was unable to care for her. She spent her days in the homes of her older brothers where she cooked and cleaned and helped to care for their own small children.

At the age of 12 she became a WWII bride, marrying my grandfather who was little more than a boy. They started out life as two young kids who were hopeful and had faith that love would carry them through anything.

 At age 13 she began the journey of motherhood. She and my grandfather struggled together to keep food on the table for a growing family of 6 children. There was little by way of material pleasures but everyone had what they needed. One thing there was never a shortage of was love. There was always plenty of love and caring in their home dealt by her hand.

Later they opened their home again to my mother who returned with a small child and a few months later a new baby. I was raised with my mother’s younger sisters and brother. My grandmother became more than just my grandmother she was like my mother.

My grandmother chose to spend her days in her home devoting her life to us children and her husband. Despite whatever dreams she may have had she turned her focus to us and sacrificed her dreams and sometimes her own needs for her family. As children we accepted the times she had to work outside the home to help make ends meet. We may never really know how much she gave up for those of us that she loved.

My grandmother was the standard by which I measured everyone around me. She was my teacher, my playmate and the matriarch of our family. She was a lady and a strong woman of faith. She was my role model and who I wanted to be when I grew up. She worked in our home to take care of us children. She worked in the cotton mill to help provide for our needs and later she worked as a pink lady at the hospital and took care of those less fortune than she.

It was my grandmother who taught me to cook and sew and garden. It was my grandmother who taught me to make mud pies, how to set the dinner table and how a lady should dress and behave. It was my grandmother who taught me how to be compassionate and how to pray. It was my grandmother who taught me what a mother and a wife should be and it was my grandmother who taught me that when one love ends another begins. She taught me that losing someone in our life wasn’t a door that closed but instead a door that opened and let other people into our lives.

When my grandmother lost my grandfather, she stopped being ‘Sis’. She began doing things her way and for herself. She learned how to write a check. She became independent and took care of herself much in the same way she took care of us children for all those years. She became “Lovey” and she took care of Papa Squirrel and he took care of her. For the first time she knew the meaning of a shared love.

It is said that we are often the only bible some people read throughout their entire life. Everyday of my life I have read from the book of Mary. My grandmother taught me that going to church on Sunday was not something we do just because it was Sunday. She taught me it was the Lord’s day and on everyday, not just Sundays, we are to thank him for the bounty of his blessings in our lives. However small we might think those blessing are, even times when we fail to see the blessings at all, my grandmother taught me to be thankful for every moment, every breath, every heartbeat He gave to us.

Sundays in my grandmother’s home, meant we woke very early, 5 am before the sun was up. We had breakfast as a family, the house was tidied, everything in it’s place and a place for everything. We went to Sunday school and church. We came home and she and my mother and aunts finished the cooking of Sunday dinner, which had begun before we had even risen from our beds. Sunday dinner was a big thing with my grandmother and we all sat at the table together and bowed our heads in prayer. After dinner, the dishes where cleaned and put away, and it wasn’t long before we went back to church for the evening service. When we returned home, supper was the leftovers from dinner and I’ll never forget sitting on the floor watching “Gunsmoke” and eating left over roast beef sandwiches with ketchup and sweet iced tea. Sometimes I dreaded Sunday, they were long days from morning to night. But as I grew older I realized that Sunday was the day grandma showed us most how much she loved us and loved the Lord.

I was born on my grandmother’s birthday. As a child it was the most special day in the year, more important that Christmas. It was a moment in time that we and we alone shared. I was her first grandchild and she made me feel as if I were the best birthday present she ever received. She had an amazing capacity to make each of us feel special and loved and it seemed to pour forth from somewhere deep inside her soul.

I spoke with her on our birthday and just before her surgery. I take great comfort in her words and hope each of you will as well.

We talked about how blessed she was to have lived to see her children grow up, her grandchildren grow up and to know her great-grandchildren. We talked about her salvation and she was at peace with the Lord, prepared to go if He chose to take her home. She said, “Well, Angie-Pangie, no one wants to die, but if the good Lord chooses to take me there is nothing that I can do to stop it. I know I’ll be in a better place. Don’t cry at my funeral, be happy that I have gone home.”

Today I take comfort in those words. I miss her. I miss her so much it is a gaping wound of hurt, but she is with the Lord and again my grandmother has become my teacher.

-Eulogy written and given by myself at my Grandmother’s funeral

Obituary

Mary Swindell Keenan

Homemaker WARRENVILLE, S.C. - Entered into rest on Wednesday, September 8, 2004, Mrs. Mary Swindell Keenan, wife of Mr. Melvin Keenan of Cloudman Street, Warrenville, S.C. She was preceded in death by her first husband, Mr. Melvin Swindell, Sr. Survivors are two sons Melvin Swindell, Jr. of Bath, S.C. and Gary Swindell of Hephzibah, Ga.; four daughters, Martha Swindell Walden of Hephzibah, Ga., Linda Swindell Gearhart of Everett, Wash., Rachel Swindell Perez of Bath, Sherry Swindell Faugl of Aiken; four step-sons, Terry, Donald and Joey Keenan of Langley and Kevin Keenan of Graniteville; three step-daughters, Tammy and Melinda Keenan of Graniteville and Donna Simpson of Graniteville; fourteen grandchildren; eight step-grandchildren; and ten great grandchildren. Mrs. Keenan was born in Aiken, S.C. to the late Henry** and Mary Chavious Ward. She was a homemaker and a member of Breezy Hill Baptist Church, Graniteville, S.C. where she was active in the Fa ithful Ambassadors. Funeral services will be on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Breezy Hill Baptist Church with Rev. Robert Riley officiating. Interment will follow in Aiken Memorial Gardens. Mrs. Keenan will be placed in the church one hour prior to the funeral service. Pallbearers will be Deacons of Breezy Hill Baptist Church. Honorary pallbearers will be members of the Faithful Ambassadors. Memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society. Friends may call at the residence of Tim and Sherry Faugl, 3966 Wood Valley Dr., Aiken, S.C. or on Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. at Hatcher Funeral Home, U.S. Hwy. No. 1, Langley, S.C. Sign the guestbook at AugustaChronicle.com Published in The Augusta Chronicle on 9/10/2004.

** Error in obituary, her father was William Watson Ward.

 

 June 2009

“Papa Squirrel” has now moved on. He moved out of Grandmother’s house and left it trashed. He shacked up with another lady and took most of Grandmother’s possessions of value including her jewelry from her marriage to my Grandfather. When asked for the return of certain items he declared he wanted nothing more to do with our family and cut all ties. Thus being the case I think the truth should be told to the world.

My grandmother was never legally married to Melvin Keenan. They were married by a preacher in Florida who felt the elderly should not loose their social seciruty benefits upon remarriage but also knew it was not God’s will for them to live together without the bonds of matrimony and as such he performed many religious ceremonies joining older couples as husband and wife in the eyes of God but not in the legal eyes of the state. My grandmother’s last name “Keenan” is legally a false name.

Now we can be rid of him in return.

My grandmother is Mary Ward Swindell.