Patricia Merold, widow of Christian minister Ben Merold, died six months ago, on June 5, 2023. This remembrance by her great-granddaughter, Elizabeth, was originally a blog post.
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By Elizabeth Merold
“She’s gone, chief,” my family and I lovingly admonished several times a day in the weeks following my great-grandmother’s departure from this earth. An ode to a David Letterman skit, the one-liner has been a go-to tagline for our family concerning the death of my great-grandmother, Pat.
She’s gone, indeed. And I find I am frequently reminded how much I cherished, admired, and appreciated my great-grandmother for who she was.
My great-grandmother could’ve brought empires to their knees.
A completely unique individual, Grandma Pat inspired me for many years and will continue to inspire me on into my adult journey.
After Grandma Pat traded in her troubles for a crown, family members traveled back to her home just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. It was odd to wander through her house knowing she wasn’t there. It felt as though she were merely around the corner, taking a nap in her room, simply present but outside of our eye line and earshot; the light on in her guest bedroom window tricking you into believing that she was home, yet when you came inside, the atmosphere was hollow and silent; the light merely a deterrent from detecting the house to be void and vulnerable. The useless grandfather clock with his hands frozen in time, dead and no longer functioning, losing all sense of purpose, sat broken, as it had done for many years, in the dining room. The dreadfully out-of-tune piano with the forever-present carved wooden Nativity scene depicting a lovely Mary and Joseph cradling and coddling a newborn baby Jesus sitting atop it, displayed sheet music with the title, “Leaving on My Mind,” in bold black letters; a memento to her abrupt departure.
Certain things came to my mind following her death; that mischievous twinkle in her eye; our shared love of root beer soda; how, if we were sitting beside each other, her hand would fumble blindly for mine, merely wishing to hold it, lovingly stroking the back of my hand with her thumb; the way she would lean in as if to share a secret, only to whisper the most hilarious one-liner; the old beater car she drove with the missing hubcap and the license plate all wonky. (Seriously, it was missing the top right screw, and hung at a diagonal.) Not to mention, the bumper sticker slapped on the back reading, “Next mood swing in 60 seconds!” The way she always had the oddest assortment of things for me to take home—such as a pair of XXL pajama pants and a receipt from 1987, and how she wanted to have you over for dinner, always, even if it was just to have Subway sandwiches on a China plate.
I have two handwritten notes from my great-grandma that I have kept for many years. Her sprawling handwriting gracing the space for personal annotations and notes.
One, a Christmas card, reads,
We hope your college classes don’t keep you so busy you don’t have time to dream. We think you’ll do BIG things in your time here on earth,
Loads of love and prayer,
Grandma Pat & Grandpa Ben
So simple, yet that line, “so busy you don’t have time to dream,” pierced the romantic in me, the sappy part of me that nobody ever really sees. It’s like she could see right into my soul from thousands of miles away, how growing up and leaving childhood behind and facing the daunting adult world was a lot harder at the beginning of college than I thought it would be.
Of course, adult life is great, now, but there was a loss of self, in some ways, at the beginning. And somehow, she knew that.
The other card was for my 15th birthday.
For perspective, I turn 23 in two weeks.
I’ve hung onto this birthday card with a cat riding a bicycle for eight years and probably will have it until I see her again one day.
Fifteen! You’re all we hoped for and a whole lot more. Elizabeth, we pray God gives you just what you need, and that what you need is what you want. We pray for your education and your mate. We pray for your children whom we might not meet. But we do know that we want to be in heaven with you and yours. We wish we could see you more and know all the wonderful things we just have to hear about. We trust you’ll have a really great birthday—one to remember all your life.
Loads of love,
Grandpa Ben & Grandma Pat
I couldn’t fathom it.
She and Grandpa prayed for things they would never see come to fruition. And they never did. Both have gone home to the Lord, but they prayed for my future husband, my future children, and the education they never saw me fully complete, having left this world a few months shy of me graduating with my bachelor’s degree.
She wanted things for her family . . . she was so selfless in that way.
It reminds me of that Elevation Worship song, “The Blessing,” based on Deuteronomy 7:9, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”
What I wouldn’t do for five more minutes with that woman.
The woman who sat and had tea parties with me, decadently served with Oreos and milk; the woman who always knew what to say and when to say it; the woman who wasn’t afraid to go head-to-head with the best of them.
Can’t you give me five more minutes?
Elizabeth Merold, a recent college graduate, lives in Orange County, California, where she is currently pursuing a career in writing. She is also the creator and author of The Joy Well Studio, a blog catering to young women that explores the Christian faith.