A bonnie vista is a beautiful view. It is also my grandmother's name. She lived to be 99 years old. That is a long time looking forward, but I think looking back, that is not much time. She once said to me, "It went by faster than I thought."
She was a beautiful woman all the years of her life. She was opinionated, but not in the way I am opinionated. She held her opinions with class and restraint. I often wish I had learned that grace from her.
She believed when people die it is simply the end. I do not know what led her to this belief, but I am sure it was her logical, pragmatic mind. Based on what we see, that is the logical assumption. This belief informed her life and lent to her an admirable discipline and strength. She told me a person must not weaken. She remained disciplined until the very end.
She was not sentimental but she was loving. Her sense of humor had a touch of the steel blade in it, but it was never mean-spirited. Her house was always spotless, from the big old farmhouse to the small home in town where she and Grandpa moved after they sold the farm and retired. I always had the sense that my Grandmother could have run a company or a school or a government if such professions had been more readily available to the women of her generation.
In fact, she did run a successful business. She and Grandpa started with nothing but when she died, there was a significant amount of money left to each of her grandchildren. She successfully taught four children, eight grandchildren, and as many of the great grandchildren as she had the opportunity to know. Under her rule, the family prospered. She never dominated the people she governed but empowered the people she dearly loved.
For some reason, I spent almost a week alone with my grandparents one summer. Every single day, as soon as I had breakfast, I could go to the barn. I could ride the horses as much as I wanted. It was the best consecutive run of days in my entire childhood! It was my father's cow horse, a sorrel mare, that I rode. I loved the red horse and she loved me. It was nothing to the big working mare to carry a skinny little girl around in the pasture behind the barn, or on the dirt road following the bend of the Little Walnut River. I have often wondered if a horse, such a sensitive and empathic animal, enters into the imagination of a child and experiences the make-believe worlds, too. Maybe it is the innocent joy of childhood the horse experiences. I was as safe in the care of that wise old mare as I was anywhere in the world.
My grandmother understood me and never placed any sort of burden on me for being who I was as a child. One day when she called me in at noon, I asked if I could take my lunch so I could have a picnic in the pasture with the horse. She took my request seriously and packed a meal in a brown paper bag. Then beneath the large cottonwood trees in the beautiful little pasture behind the barn, I gathered armloads of grass for the horse, and I sat on the ground to eat. The horse, who could have easily chosen to graze anywhere in the entire pasture, stayed faithfully by my side, eating the grass I had gathered for her.
Even late in her years, my grandmother remembered when I asked her to pack my lunch so I could picnic with the horse. I do not think Grandma had any idea what a wonderful gift she allowed me that day.
I was lucky enough to know all four of my grandparents well, and to have ongoing relationships with them that lasted until the end of their lives. My grandmother did not always approve of my choices but I never doubted that she loved me. Even when I did not visit in person, we wrote to one another over the years, so she usually knew what was going on in my life. The older I became, the more remarkable she became in my eyes. The thing about loving someone your entire life, that love does not fundamentally change but it expands, adds on, becomes more complex without ever leaving those innocent, simple beginnings behind.
I do not know where my Grandmother is now. She died on the summer solstice, when the sun was at its highest, when the most light was available to her. At the graveside the day of her funeral, the sunlight was strong and clear. Off to the left, in an open area away from the mourners, a column of bright light was present. It was only thin air, visibly brighter than the surrounding sunlight, and was as clear and straight and as beautiful as my Grandmother's spirit had been in physical life. I knew it was my grandmother taking her final leave of the family and friends she had loved so well and for so long. Wherever she is now, that is a good place.
Bonnie Vista and Charles Asa