My mother and father were two very immature people who should have never married, nor should they have had children. By the time I was four years old, I was living with my grandparents. In contrast to my parents, Grandma Kate was a rock of faith that anchored me in a turbulent childhood, and her prayers continue to affect me to this day. Her life was hard: a hard childhood, a hard marriage, death of a child, prodigal children, and even raising a grandchild until her very hard death. She was a woman of faith and prayer, but at the time I couldn't say that I saw much change in her circumstances from that faith and prayer. That may be because I was so self-absorbed, as children often are.
Her husband (my grandfather) did eventually come to faith, but to my way of thinking back then, it was too little too late. She was in poor health, their marriage had fifty years of abuses stacked up, and change comes slowly. His eternal destiny might have been changed, but it didn't seem to change the seventy plus years of misery which made her life.
Still, I can't shake her influence. I did not know her Savior until after she'd died, nor did her daughter - my mother. Grandma did not see much fruit from her prayer, yet often when I would come in from playing or from school I'd find her kneeling by her bed praying or sitting in the front room reading her bible. She stayed faithful in spite of years of not seeing any results. She had the faith of Abraham – to grasp God's promises and not let go, even though she didn't live to see the results. I think she's amazing.
When I was eleven, my grandparents sold their farm, and we moved into a very small ranch house in a suburb of Detroit to live with my mother. Up to that point, I had only seen my mother every other weekend when she would come from the city to the farm to visit. She always seemed so glamorous to me. She dressed nicely for work and would come to the farm on Friday nights straight from her job in bookkeeping for a major retailer. She was so beautiful.
But living with her was another matter.
By the time I was twelve, Grandma was in the hospital almost non-stop. She died when I was fourteen and my grandfather died a few months later. The man who'd been so unkind to her all their married days found he couldn't live without her, and while there was nothing wrong with him physically, he willed himself to die.
There I was, alone as a teenager with my mother. As one can imagine, it wasn't a smooth transition. My parents had separated when I was three and divorced when I was four. After that, my mother gave me to my grandparents. I had always thought it was because mom couldn't find child care, but the truth of the matter was that she really wasn't that interested in being a mother. We didn't really know each other, and, as we started off on this new part of our story, we found we didn't really like each other very much. That never changed.
Even so, Grandma's prayers followed us.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.