I saw this quote somewhere recently and it sure got me thinking. My paternal grandmother Viola May Barlow (Goss) was born May 29th 1905 in Tampa FL to Elizabeth (Lizzie) Harrell and Joseph Mark Goss. She was the most FAITHFUL person I have ever known not by being a bible thumping, scripture quoting, zealot... but by being absolutely FEARLESS. Real faith. Don't get me wrong she never missed a Southern Baptist church service, but she was not one of these holier than thou in your face types. Her faith was demonstrated not preached. It was most notable in her values... what she truly cared about in herself and others. Money, name, car you drove, occupation, education, where your address was... these were absolutely meaningless to Grandmother.
I never knew her husband my Grandfather William Barlow as he died when I was very young. So all my life with Grandmother she lived alone. She had a very modest Florida Cracker clapboard house at 216 W Powhattan AVE. These old Florida houses all looked the same... my maternal Grandparents over near Plant City had the exact same house! They were white with perhaps some black trim, black screen doors and metal roof, maybe 3 bedrooms, a small kitchen and a combo dining/sitting room. A screened in back porch was a sign of opulence and often housed the washer & dryer. My Grandmother wasn't that fancy so she had to visit a laundry mat on occasion. I don't remember her having a car. Her house was just a stones throw from the Hillsborough river and just a couple of blocks south was Hillsborough ave and a small Sav-a-lot grocery store. I can remember walking with her as we pulled a wagon to go get groceries.
Another thing about her house... no Air Conditioning! In neither of my grandparents homes. Both had a very scary heater of some type... grandmothers was this large iron floor grate/cage, with most of it below the house... it was fired with some sort of fuel... I suppose kerosene or oil. The cage was a place I often peered down into... I can remember my parents moving me and my toys away from it. Back in the 70's and into the 80's Florida was a very cold place! To me anyway! Everything is relative of course and now that I have been forced to live in other places nothing about Florida is cold to me anymore!
I remember my Grandmother would tell me she was praying for me in all I do. Again this wasn't spoken in judgement nor with any singular "religious" connotations. It was spoken as a solid statement of "A power greater than you is on your side". Looking back her statements were the most powerful spoken words a woman has ever uttered to me... in my life. NO OTHER WOMAN HAS EVER SAID THAT TO ME. Because of her demonstrated Faith and her strong values what she spoke carried great weight. Throughout my life those words spoken to me by Grandmother have always been there for me, no matter how far away I was or what I faced. Plenty of fools have wished me "good luck!" but very few told me with complete resolution "I am praying for you".... Go forth and fear no danger.
Grandmother raised 3 sons all of which were wildly successful in their own way. Certainly she had instilled in each of them that same Faith and Fearlessness. Not from preaching but from doing... from demonstrating Faith. Now I am not the most faithful man out there and still too often I let fear guide my decisions. I have to ask myself "Steve why were you scared of that?"... "You can do better". "Quit worrying about your job, bank account, the news, where you are, being alone, your health...etc"... BUT... I do remember what Grandmother told me! And I often think how much and how far I have gotten simply because she was in my life! One woman... who always demonstrated a calm, resolute Faith no matter what. And the one who told me she was praying FOR ME! While she was the one old, widowed and alone!
She came by her Faith perhaps naturally as she was a direct descendant of true Florida pioneers. Her great grandfather was the Rev John H Tucker the very first Southern Baptist missionary to the Florida territory. A post turned down by all others due to the danger of such an assignment. Indeed it is said he carried a Seminole bullet to the grave. But not before he established hundreds of churches in the territory. Much has been written of his accomplishments and I stand amazed at even being able to travel thousands of miles in frontier Florida alone on horseback back in those times. Back then every time one ventured from the safety of the pioneer forts you took a massive gamble with your life. Rev Tucker was Faithful and Fearless. Today folks cry over a cold virus with a 99% survival rate... all while doing no praying... glued to CNN. Grandmother Barlow never said a word about the news, the president, or anything else outside her values! Those things just didn't matter.
While in this world she was easily looked over... just another poor Florida Cracker. I am most certain she is heralded in great favor now and with her husband and 3 sons! I also know she is still praying for me! And now with an even more direct connection to the Almighty! I am so grateful I had her as a Grandmother... she was pennyless but wealthy, alone but joyful, surrounded by crime but fearless and always overjoyed to see me and my brothers! Truly the most powerful woman I have ever known... precisely because she had no "wordly" power... nor ever had to swing it. Thank you Grandmother and thank you for all the prayers you gave to me, thank you for solid values... and thank you for a true testimony of FAITH.
Grandmother Barlow with her 3 sons. My Dad to her right.