She Taught me to Swing on a Star
by James Arthur Johnson
Hazel was my maternal grandmother whom I fondly knew as "Ma-Ma." She passed away peacefully this morning. Everyone had been expecting it for months. During my last visits with her, I don't know if she knew who I was, but even as recent as February and March, she did and we had some meaningful visits. I remember my wife and I being able to pray with her in February and the care nurses telling us that she prayed all the time. I was used to hearing my late grandfather "Bow-Wow" pray, but not my grandmother. It was a real treat to hear my grandmother pray to our Lord and to share that moment with her.
I recall another visit when I reminisced with her how she had taught me to tie my shoe when I was only 4 years old. I also sang a song to her that she used to sing to me. It occurred one day early during my grade school years. Ma-Ma asked me if I liked school and I said, "No." She was a wise woman. She simply sang me a song:
Would you like to swing on a star
carry moonbeams home in a jar
and be better off than you are
or would you rather be a mule
A mule is an animal with long funny ears
he kicks up at anything he hears
His back is brawny but his brain is weak
he's just plain stupid with a stubborn streak
and by the way if you hate to go to school
You may grow up to be a mule
She usually sang many verses, but being a fan of Pinocchio, this one made the greatest impact on me. Even though it would be many years before I liked school, I was determined to stick with it, thanks to Ma-Ma.
In fact, it was that value for education that brought Ma-Ma to Bridgewater in 1925 at the age of 14. And as she got older, she worked in Harrisonburg, where she would meet my late grandfather and marry him in 1936. Their oldest daughter is my mother.
Later, during my childhood, I remember when Ma-Ma and I sat in the backyard on a sunny summer day under the shady maple tree. She sat in a lawn chair. I sat under a giant box at times, pretending I was a computer. I always had my Choose Your Own Adventure books with me. I remember reading them to Ma-Ma in the backyard. Her singing the chorus paid off.
I'll miss you Ma-Ma. I have missed you for some time. Tell Bow-Wow, "Hello" when you see him. And know that we will see you again, knowing you are with our Lord Jesus Christ. There is now no more pain, a clear mind, Bow-Wow, your siblings, those who have gone before you, and most importantly, the welcoming arms of Jesus.
As I said the last time I saw you, I say again, "I love you Ma-Ma."