“Whoever said that loss gets easier with time was a liar. Here’s what really happens: The spaces between the times you miss them grow longer. Then, when you do remember to miss them again, it’s still with a stabbing pain to the heart. And you have guilt. Guilt because it’s been too long since you missed them last.” – Kristin O’Donnell Tubb
Today would have been my paternal grandmother’s 96th birthday. Fern Kunz Galloway, was a stupendous woman and I feel privileged to be able to call myself her granddaughter. She has been gone for nearly half my life and that thought always stabs me in the heart a bit. So, on this birth anniversary, I want to pay homage to my grandmother.
There are so few memories growing up that do not have my grandma. She lived through the block from us and was always there for me. She taught me in Primary. She went on walks with me. She told me stories about my ancestors. She watched movies with me. She let me sneak peas from her garden. She fed me (always with the feeding and being a hostess).
Fern Kunz Galloway was a woman who did not let her physical limitations stop her from doing what she felt needed to be done. She was legally blind but continued to cook, do her family history work, fulfil her church callings, attend Know Your Religion and the Temple, write letters and cards, write in her journal, and so much more. She had a tenacious spirit that never let her give up on anything or anyone.
I have recently been reading her journals from the last few years of her life. I feel like I have been getting to know a side of my grandmother that I did not get the chance to see as a child. I see her relationship with my grandfather and with her children. I see the love she had for the Bear Lake Valley and for her neighbors. I see that she always wanted to keep doing and learning. No one would have been able to call her complacent.
Fern was the oldest child of thirteen and I like to think that she had a bit of a rebellious spirit. She was not content to simply obey – she liked to push the limits a bit. She caused her parents a bit of grief, I think.
She married Richard Irvine Galloway in 1939 and they were later sealed in the temple. My grandparents raised eight children. I am sure that she (and my grandfather as well) are grateful these children lived to see adulthood!
She started the H&R block Tax office in Montpelier, Idaho. She was the owner and did the taxes herself. After selling her business, she became a part time secretary/receptionist for my grandfather’s business, a title and realty company. She was never one to just sit idle.
She died at home of cancer in 2000 at the age of 80 and I miss her enormously.
I want to share with you a few lessons that I learned from Fern Kunz Galloway.
- Family is important. On Mother’s Day in 1991, she wrote in her journal: “Heard from all the kids. Its nice & fun to have a family & be associated with them all & feel their love. I love them all.” She was not only concerned with her children and grandchildren, but with her siblings and extended family. I remember going to visit family members with her and I thought we’d never escape! She loved having her children and grandchildren visit and she loved visiting them. After my grandpa died in 1993, my grandma would come up to our house nearly every Sunday after church for dinner. We would talk about what we learned in church and the general going-ons of the town. After she died, Sundays did not feel normal for a very very long time and neither did the holidays. Family is so very important and staying connected is a huge part of that importance.
- Faith and Action. Fern was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She believed in the teachings with everything in her. She attended Sunday meetings regularly and if we did not pick her up by 9:10, she would have left her house to start walking. She was active in her callings, whether that was teaching her CTR class or doing her visiting teaching. She was my CTR teacher and I HATED when the other kids wanted to sit by her during sharing time. She was my grandma, didn’t they know that? She attended everything extra that she was able to attend – Know Your Religion, enrichment, etc. Fern Kunz Galloway lived her life in such a way that not only did you know what she believed, you could see it in her actions, in the way that she lived each and every day.
- Giving Up is NOT an option. Legally blind? Check. Giving up on life because of being legally blind? Nope. She continued to cook for herself, read (listen) to books and scriptures, do her genealogy, go visiting teaching, tend her house, tend George (her parrot), write in her journal, etc. Anything that needed to be done, she did. She was independent and stubborn. Qualities that may or may not exist in some of my siblings. She was so independent that, when my grandpa was sent to the hospital by ambulance in February 1993, and I was also in the hospital, she drove herself. My mother was with me and unable to go get her and my father was at work, so if she was to be at the hospital with grandpa, well, she would have to bring herself. We’re all very lucky no one was hurt!
- You Must Learn About Your Ancestors. My grandmother was an avid genealogist. I remember going to her house and seeing her card table set with papers and pictures from her family history work. I grew up hearing stories about her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and further back. I loved these stories and I still love them. Not long before she died, I had the opportunity to spend some quality 1:1 time with her. It was kind of a two-fold deal. For one, I was working on a Laurel project for church dealing with family history. So, I was helping my grandma to identify pictures and write names on the backs of these pictures. For the second part, I think I was distraction for my grandma. She had been having some health problems and felt that she needed to get this project done. She would pull up box after box of these fantastic pictures – pictures of her as a baby and young woman, pictures of my grandpa as a kid. Then, there were the pictures of people that I had never known but knew the stories – Amelia Galloway, Robert and Matilda Galloway, Parley Kunz’s siblings, etc. These people that I knew in my heart and could recite their stories but now had faces and were completely real. My grandmother instilled in me the love of doing family history work.
- Love. My grandma loved me. Honestly, I think this is the hardest one for me to write. I think as a kid I knew that my grandma loved me but as I grew it became harder and harder for me to see. It was sometimes so hard for me because I felt like we were always helping one grandma or another do things. We would take Grandma Galloway grocery shopping one day and Grandma McMurray another. Oh, Grandma Galloway called – I need to go check her oven temperature – those kinds of things. As a teenager, it was very difficult for me to see the bigger picture. Teenagers are notoriously self-centered and I was no different. All I could see was how difficult this was for me. Looking back, I can see so many little things that showed me her love every single day and I wish that I could take back some of my teenage attitudes. All I wanted was for her to see me and to love me and what I did not see was that she already did. A couple days before she died, I was lying on her bed with her. She looked at me and took my hand and told me she loved me. That was a moment that I will never forget. The moment I knew that she loved me and I knew that she was dying, no matter how much I prayed for the opposite.
I am one of the lucky ones. I got to have my grandmother in my life nearly every single day for over 17 years. There are few moments, particularly big moments, when I do not miss her and feel she would understand my wanting to do certain things with my life.
Fern Kunz Galloway was full of faith and knew her divine nature. She strove for excellence and to continue to improve her life. She was stubborn and pushed forward to find that line of balance that was right for her. How can I not be proud to be called her granddaughter?
Grandma Galloway – Happy 96th Birthday. I’m not having any ice cream but I will have a York Peppermint Patty just for you.