Great-Grandmother Sarah Jane

I am participating in a study on Wednesday evenings for the next few weeks with some other ladies at my church, studying “The Patriarchs” by Beth Moore, and it is a really good study.  As I worked on my homework last night, I read about Sarai becoming Sarah and Beth’s amazing description of how God blessed her, in addition to his blessing of Abraham.  At the age of 90, God gave her this new name that means “Princess.”  That is a post unto itself, and it would be good for me to write about it.  But, as I closed out that section on Sarah in the study, my thoughts drifted to my own “Princess Sarah,” my great-grandmother, Sarah Jane.

When I follow my closest and most “precious-to-me” lineage in my family tree, I am following the ladies on my mother’s side.  I know it is more customary for some people to put an emphasis on the father’s lineage, and while that is also very special to me, it does not hold the tender place in my heart that the ladies in my mother’s lineage hold.  Truthfully, I only ever knew my own mother (who is still alive at age 91) and her mother, but how I wish I had known Sarah Jane in person, too.

If I could make any reasonable assumptions about Sarah Jane based on my grandmother, she would be an amazingly kind and caring soul that I would certainly have treasured to have in my life for however long she lived.  My mother has also told me a couple of times just how much my grandmother adored her, too.  You see, Sarah Jane died in the southern part of the Chickasaw Indian Territory of Oklahoma a few days after an appendicitis surgery that was performed on her at their home when she was only 46 years old.  Her mother, Minerva – my great, great-grandmother, also died at a young age of 39 in Kentucky.  So it is a fact that my precious grandmother that I adored so much in my early life really never had her own mother and grandmother in her own life for very long, since Sarah Jane died when she was just 13 years old and Minerva died many years before she was even born.  It almost makes me feel guilty for having my own mother still in my life and quite healthy at age 91, and it also speaks volumes to me about why family was always the focal point of my grandmother’s life.  When I think of family values, I think of my dear grandmother’s loving example above all because I think it was instilled in her at an early age by Sarah Jane.

My grandmother's handwriting at the top of the newspaper article
My grandmother’s handwriting at the top of the newspaper obituary for Sarah Jane

We only have one photograph of Sarah Jane, an early photograph with her young family, including my grandmother as a small child, but it has meant the world to me to have it.  We also know much about great-grandmother Sarah Jane’s death, thanks to an actual detailed newspaper clipping passed on to my mother that a friend of Sarah Jane’s wrote about her passing.  I have a copy of it that I read often, just to remind me of what is most important in life.  I am ever thankful for this unknown friend that made sure that Sarah Jane’s story didn’t die along with her because if not for that article, I don’t think Sarah Jane’s full story surrounding her death would have ever made it to me.  Except for a few ancestral details, this is all I really know about my great-grandmother.  But if I could know anything about her, this is what I would most want to know.  The article is just amazing to me, as it told specifics about her last moments on this earth before she died, but what I dearly love is that she was described as…

“… a sweet Christian lady who lived what she professed.” 

The article continues and states that Sarah Jane was “almost an invalid” for the last few years of her life for some unstated reason but that she kept trying to live “for the sake of her family.”  That included my sweet, young thirteen year-old grandmother, and while I can only speculate how deeply this loss impacted her at that time, I believe my grandmother did her best to continue her own mother’s legacy of love for the rest of her life.

The article then tells about the final minutes of Sarah Jane’s life with the following statement that I have since memorized just like a treasured bible verse.

“After calling her [seven] children to her bedside and admonishing them to meet her in Heaven, she put her trust and life in the Lord’s care.”

Somehow, I think Sarah Jane’s admonishment is meant for all of us who followed her as her descendants, not just her own children.  I know that it was my grandmother’s wish, and I also know it is my mother’s wish, too.  This legacy of motherly love and a firm desire to pass on their faith in God is what has always stood out to me when I think about these special ladies, my closest and dearest ancestors.  When I think about my male ancestors, I do not have any memory of such things, with the exception of my father’s acceptance of Jesus Christ much later in his own life.  But even after his conversion, he was a very private man and never spoke much about his faith to me or anyone else, even though I could see its’ manifestation in some of the things he did, especially for the poor and for his church.  No, the legacy of faith passed to me has most definitely been from the mothers on my own mother’s side.  And what a beautiful legacy it is.

I am thankful today for a Godly heritage from three wonderful and beautiful women, including Sarah Jane.  God help me to live up to their examples and admonishments and impart the same desires to my own descendants.

And to the unnamed friend who penned her obituary, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and hope to give you a big hug someday, as your words have been an unspeakable and life-changing blessing to me over the past few years.  You are the ultimate friend.

The last sentence of Sarah Jane's obituary - by an unnamed friend
The last sentence of Sarah Jane’s obituary – by an unnamed friend

I first began ancestry research back in 2007 after the death of my older brother, and I did it as a way to give a living memorial to him and help me deal with my grief, since no one in our family had done any research that I was aware of at that time.  It has blessed me many times, and I highly encourage anyone who is even remotely interested to explore their own ancestors and their stories.

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