My great-grandmother died the day after she turned 97 and three days before I turned 15. Her funeral pamphlet listed how many descendants she had: 15 children (only three made it to adulthood), 63 grandchildren, over 100 great-grandchildren and somewhere in the teens was the great- great- grandchildren (I can’t remember exactly what those last two numbers are).
Though her tiny 4’9″ body gave out and she spent her last years in a wheel chair, her mind stayed pretty sharp. I was one of the over-100 great-grandchildren, so she didn’t always remember my name but she always remembered that I was Helen’s daughter, even though I look much more like my aunt Karin and many others would mistake her for my mother.
Besides being a farm wife and mother of many, she was a self-taught chiropractor. How did she train herself to do that? Sunday dinner.
Every Sunday they would have chicken for dinner. Then she would dry out the bones in the oven (a wood burning one I wouldn’t doubt) and she’d put the chicken back together again.
My great-grandmother practiced chiropractic care till she was 95 years old. An incredible story of her chiropractic practice was told at her funeral. That was over 20 years ago but I still remember this story well:
A man had broken his ankle. He had gone to doctor, who had set it. However, when he had healed things were not right. The leg that had the broken ankle was now shorter than the other leg was. The man didn’t want to spend the rest of his life walking on a slant. Whether he already knew Helena Hiebert or whether someone recommended her, I don’t remember, but he went to see my great-grandmother.
She prayed (she always prayed before she worked on anyone that God would use her hands to fix the injury) then felt his ankle with the sensitive fingers that she had that could detect the slightest maladjustment. “Yes, I can fix your ankle,” she said, “But it’s going to have to be broken again.”
She must have had quite a positive reputation because the man agreed to allow her sons to break his ankle again. And they did.
I learned from my mother that, after she reset his ankle, possibly splinted it and then he went to see her, probably every day at first so she could make sure it stayed in place, and then often until it was healed. But when it was healed, it was the same length as the other one.
There’s no wonder that she’d won a citizenship award for service to the community.
My dad told me a few years after great grandma died that she had once told him why she was living for so long (preceding 2 husbands and about 4 children).
It was simple: to pray for her family.
And I believe she did.
I wish I’d known her better. When we’d gone to the nursing home she lived in to visit, I spent my time playing with my kid brother in the rec room instead of staying at her room listening to her stories. But that’s what kids do I guess. And when I see her again in Glory with our Father, I’ll get to hear the stories there.
You may know of my efforts to learn about the essence and traits of the Proverbs 31 woman and my desire to become one. But as I think about my great-grandmother, I can’t help but believe that this woman, for whom my mother was named, was indeed the epitome of the Proverbs 31 woman.
And now I really wish I’d known her better.
If your grandparents are still alive, I encourage you to take advantage of the time they have left and get to know them.
How about you? Do you have any great stories to share about grandparents? I’d love to hear about them! Leave a comment below.
P.S. To my family who may read this, if I’ve made some errors in my facts, please let me know and I will correct them.