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Remembering the General: A Eulogy for my Grandmother

Myra Chatburn Davidsmeyer
March 6, 1905 - September 30, 1999
a tribute by her granddaughter Jo Davidsmeyer

What can you say in a few words about the passing of a loved one? The bare facts cannot illuminate that faded light that shined so brightly for so long. At this time, certain words are not just expected, they are required … by the government. There's legalities to be followed, forms to be filed, letters to be written — an endless stream of paper leading into the next life.

Place of birth? Mother's Maiden Name? School completed? The newspaper thinks it so important to know that Myra Chatburn Davidsmeyer was born in 1905 in Canon City, Colorado. That she had, for 25 years, worked as a secretary for the Baptist Foreign Missions. That she brought into the world two children, five grandchildren, eight great grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren (with one more on the way).

But those are mere numbers. Cold facts, that tell little about the woman known lovingly to her family as — THE GENERAL. Her niece Diane recalls, "No question about it. She was in charge: of everything! She always seemed to be able to lead us. Even when we didn't want to be led. And, later in life, if that didn't work, well, she'd just whack us with her cane until we fell in line."

General Myra had quite an army to command. She was the eldest of three sisters. When just a teenager, she caught the eye of a dashing young sailor, Howard Davidsmeyer, just returned from the Great War. And, of course, they were wed. With excellent foresight and planning on Myra's part, Howard just happened to have two younger brothers. Myra's son Howard Junior remembers, "Yep, the three sisters married the three brothers. And I felt terribly cheated growing up. I kept going to family weddings and never gained any new in-laws!"

The General commanded her family through the Great Depression, during which Myra and Howard opened their home to relatives. They had over a dozen staying with them for years - all sharing what money was available, getting by as best they could. It was a bustling house, filled with love and laughter.

Myra's daughter Margaret recalls one day in particular. "Mom was on a mission," she says. "You see, there was this terrible smell coming from the street. Sewer gas. Mom got the city to send a man to look into the problem. But, he wasn't able to fix it. Well, she took charge! She was on the phone to his supervisor. 'Your man came out here and did something in the street, and now it smells worse than ever.' And, of course, we all laughed and laughed. But she just looked at us as if we lost our minds."

Truth be told, Myra was … well … humorless. Not that she wasn't filled with joy. But, she could never tell when she was being funny. It's the British side of her. The woman just couldn't tell a joke. And she'd never get jokes others told to her. While working at her son's hardware store in Massapequa, New York, the guys would start each morning with the latest joke they'd heard. Myra would just listen, then look blankly back at them. "That's funny?" she'd ask. The guys took it as a personal challenge to find some joke that Myra could laugh at … if only they knew.

Her grandson Dave remembers the first time he found Myra, late one afternoon, hiding in back of the grain bins. Her hands covered her face and her shoulders were heaving. "Gramma, what's wrong?"

"Nothing," she said between gasps, "It's … it's the joke -- I just got it!"

The General's calling was not as a stand-up comic. Her calling lay elsewhere. As a young girl, Myra felt the Holy Spirit fill her soul. She knew then that she wanted to serve Jesus all her life. The greatest sadness in her life was the time she was born into -- back then, a woman couldn't become a minister of the word, and she wanted that so much.

But, as you know, when the Lord shuts a door, he opens a window. Myra spread the word of the Lord all her life, one-on-one, in groups, and in the way she lived. She was especially helpful with spreading the word among the Navajo Indians in the American West. She and her husband, for over sixty years, supported numerous Christian projects in the Navajo nation, providing money, supplies, Bibles, and an unending energy and commitment. If you find yourself out in Arizona, visiting among the Navajo, you'll see the results of the work of this special woman, and even a building or two that bear the Davidsmeyer name.

Her legacy, though, is not to be found in brick and mortar … it's found in the heart, and in the family that she leaves behind. Her 19 year-old great-granddaughter Karen Sprenger wrote this: "I heard of Great Grandma D's death just this morning and even though the only time I ever physically met her was when I was a baby, I still feel the loss. I went to an art exhibit for class today and there was a set of three photos that really affected me. It was entitled Matriarchs and it was comprised of three individual photographic portraits of old women. They were physically old, but had spirit and strength in their eyes that reminded me of my Great Grandmother. She's always been great to talk to with her great spirit. Her love was always well conveyed in every message. I know she kept us in her prayers, we'll always keep her in our hearts."

Her family can take comfort in their sure knowledge that, at long last, the General is where she has longed to be … in the warm and loving embrace of her Savior, Jesus Christ. She's re-united with her beloved husband Howard, whose been awaiting her in heaven for 20 years. Of course, Heaven might never be the same. I'm sure the General's already re-organizing the place.

For those of us left behind, I'd like to share the words of a favorite tract that Myra kept with her. "Did you know that today is a special day? … this day is God's gift to you, a 24-hour present from your creator filled with His divine opportunities. Today God has opened a new chapter in your life. Yesterday is history. Today is yours now. So, let's celebrate. Let's start enjoying God's goodness now […] On this special day let's thank God for this gift of life. Let's praise Him, that He loved us enough to send His Son to free us from our sins. And let's trust Him for the days to come. 'This is the day which the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.'"