Eclectalife — March 8, 2010 at 8:00 am

Goodbye, Thelma Meyer – 1916-2010


This is Thelma Meyer, photographed last fall just after she turned 93 years old by my wife Anne, one of Thelma’s many grandchildren. Thelma passed away last week after complications resulting from a hip-breaking fall.

Thelma Meyer was one of the most inspiring liberals I have ever met.

Thelma, or “Nana” as her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids called her, was a writer. She wrote poems, she wrote stories and she kept the family genealogy. At her funeral this weekend, I came across a piece she did titled “My autobiography through age 14”. It starts out like this:

I was born on April 1, 1916 in Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. My father remembered the time very well because the total amount of the hospital bill for my Mother and myself for 2 weeks amounted to $36.00… Over the years, when I would get out of hand, my father would dig out that bill to show me how much I was worth.

But Nana was worth ten times her weight in gold and platinum. She met her first husband as a young woman volunteering at the polls as an election worker. Over the years she remained politically aware and, as my wife’s mother said, she was a feminist in her own way, something not said about many women born in 1916.

When Barack Obama was running for president, she was thrilled to support him but she lived in an assisted care facility surrounded by very conservative and, in many cases, racist people. During the campaign someone came into the chapel earlier one Sunday morning and put McCain literature on all the chairs before the worshipers arrived. This made Thelma quite upset so she dutifully went around and collected all the political brochures and threw them away. The next weekend, the same thing happened but this time a large stack was left on a table near the door. Again, Thelma dispatched the offensive literature, finding no place in a chapel designed for worship for promoting a political candidate, particularly one she didn’t like! The third weekend she arrived at the chapel early and caught a young man from a nearby church placing the literature on the chairs. Thelma confronted the man and by the time she was through with him, he had collected all his McCain/Palin literature and left before anyone else arrived!

Another time during the election, one of the other residents where she lived told Thelma, a devout Catholic, “You know, if you vote for that Obama, you will go to hell!”

“Why would I go to hell for voting for Obama?” asked Thelma.

“Because he believes in abortion so anyone who votes for him is going to hell,” she was told.

Thelma looked at the woman and told her in an unshaking voice, “Well, I guess I’m going to hell, then.”

After the election, my wife, a photographer, created a photomosaic of Barack Obama that appeared as at two-page spread in Time magazine. Thelma could not have been more proud. She emailed me (yes, Thelma was quite internet savvy for a 92 year-old woman):

Okay, Chris! I am absolutely speechless! What an honor for Anne! I guess you can quit working now and live off Anne’s royalties – or whatever life will turn out for her – and you. Thanks you so much! Love, Nana

After she received a copy of my wife’s poster, she emailed us to tell her that some of the other people in the home where she lived didn’t like her poster but she didn’t care, she displayed it proudly in her apartment. Later she wrote to her:

You are truly generous. You are wonderful. And I am so very proud to have you as my granddaughter. Believe me, there are some women here who would be delighted to meet you. You are a celebrity here and maybe that gets a few votes for Obama. By the way have you seen Michelle Obama in some of her new gowns? Wow! Another wow! Am I looking forward to spring? ohmigod yes! Remember, I am strictly a Florida girl. My body honestly cannot stand the cold. I have all kinds of body problems when it gets below 80.

And – yes, my computer is fixed. Thanks to my daughter Kathy. We took it up to Best Buy and do you know that they fixed the major parts – for nothing? Yes, my dear there are some good people in the world. I love you and Chris always. You two are some of the good people in the world. Love, Nana

Nana defied the odds in many ways. Although she group up mostly in the patriarchal South, she was not a racist and believed that women should be allowed to pursue whatever they wished. I think she was especially proud of her successful granddaughters across the country. I also think she would have been happy to know that my wife represented the strong women in her family by being a pall bearer for Nana’s casket.

Nana was independent until the end. She was able to drive right up until the day she broke her hip. She fixed her own meals and emailed regularly. My wife and I received our last email from her just a month before she went into the hospital, sent after receiving a gift of some of our homemade Michigan blueberry preserves.

From: Thelma Meyer
Subject: Ambrosia

I have never eaten anything quite as delicious as your homemade blueberry preserves. It is so good I do not know why you did not keep it all to yourselves instead of sending out samples. And it even cost $5.00 to mail it! How can I thank you?

Well you have made a little old lady very grateful for putting the taste of heaven in her mouth. Thank you so much, Anne and Chris.. I am very happy. Love, Nana

Good-bye, Nana. We are so very glad you were happy up until the end of your life. You will be missed but you will also live on in all our hearts. You inspired us with your spunk, your enthusiasm for life and with your creativity. And for me personally, when I’m out there knocking on doors and making phone calls for Barack Obama, I’ll be doing it in memory of you.

I’m just sayin’…