It became a silly game among us. An innocent competition with hidden truth and obvious jest. Whose Nana is she? Who loves her the most? Who’s her favorite? We would taunt each other – ‘She’s my Nana’ – and act as if she could be claimed by one. When in reality, she was God’s gift to us all.
Ann Schoenewolff is a beautiful woman who graced us all with her incredibly full life on earth. She began her journey at the end of the Great War, grew up during the Great Depression, married her soulmate, and carried on to have four wonderful children. She watched America enter countless wars and her husband battle cancer. She helped raise grandchildren and great grandchildren.
In her 95 years, she lived quite a life. However, the praise not only goes to the life she fulfilled but to the legacy she leaves behind. Our Nana has a selfless soul who gave and gave and never asked anything in return. She offered unconditional love and bran muffins. She prayed for everyone as well as her lawn.
Nana was my savior in every way. She raised me when I was young. Housed me when I needed a home. Provided for me when I was in debt. Prayed for me when I was at my worst and loved me when I least deserved it.
Anytime you entered her home you sat at her kitchen table where she fed you crackers and peanut butter with juice from canned concentrate – that was most likely on sale from Aldi's. The news would be on the TV or a sermon playing on the radio. The conversation would evolve from small talk about the weather, to life at home, wars across the world, the power of prayer, and to questioning life goals. Nana was a wise woman – so well read and knowledgeable. Every story had a lesson even if it was unsaid. Every problem had a solution found through the Lord. Everything could be connected to the Two Dead Cows tale.
She taught me how to knit sweaters and sew a seam. I stood by her side making pierogies and golumpkis. Unfortunately, I don’t remember how to knit nor do I recall the recipe for her pierogies. But what she did teach me, and what I will always remember, is the power of faith. Nana was confident in her beliefs and shared them with you. She believed that the Lord will save and protect us, when in truth, she was doing so. She told us to not worry but pray; to not fight but love.
Her requests were simple. Stop hollering at each other and tell your brother or sister you love them. Pray to the lord when you don’t know what to do, and to mow the lawn once a week. She was a Depression child who lived frugally and humbly. She never asked for much but gave you everything she had. I’m not sure if she realized that her hugs were priceless.
Nana never forgot to send a card, no matter what occasion. I remember during college she would mail cards to me with Bible verses and her kind words. I was going through a very hard time at that point and I taped her cards to the wall in front of my desk. Two of them read: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever’ and ‘Trust in Him, at all times.” I repeated those verses over and over again; I repeated them through college, through New York, through my travels, and to this day. These verses evolved into prayers and these prayers have kept me going. Nana was right. You need to believe in the good, in change, and in love. The life you lead needs to reflect the goodness in your heart.
95 years is an amazing amount of time to spend on this Earth. Even as she aged, she never lost her humor, drive, or sass. In her 80’s she sat beside me in a paddleboat on pond in Stanley Quarter Park. She smiled from her heart as she told you stories of Papa. She picked weeds from her beloved lawn and grew berries in her backyard throughout her 90s. She reminded you to wear a hat in the sun or put on a sweater. She giggled innocently when she had too much canei wine.
However, the time had come for her to reunite with Papa and her family in Heaven. Her soul was ready to leave this earth before her body was. She did all she needed to do in this life – she is the matriarch to a loving family and raised strong children. Her values and faith will be immortalized and carried on through all of us. Yet Nana’s honey, fish oil, and vinegar kept her alive for a little while longer. The Lord blessed her by not letting her realize her body’s betrayal and by letting her fall gently into an eternal slumber. We can be thankful and rejoice knowing exactly where she is and who she is surrounded by.
Now instead of standing in your doorway waving goodbye and wishing us a blessed day, you are watching down on us and protecting us with your prayers and unconditional love.
As I said on the beach to my Nana and Aunt Karen many years ago, when I grow up I want to be like Nana. She is the woman, mother, daughter, sister, grandmother, wife, church-goer, and friend we all aspire to be.
Let our tears be of thanks for the life Nana lived.
Let our embraces be of those that we can no longer give to her.
Let our actions and words live out Nana’s legacy.
We were graced with the presence of a Saint.
A bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck.
I love you Nana.