There are names that are iconic. For my family, the name “Monzy” is an icon. Monzy was my grandmother. For 36 years, nine months, and 12 days, she was my Monzy.
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches…” Proverbs 22:1.
Her name was Yvonne Gertrude Nix. She was born in Louisiana on February 4, 1932 in the midst of the Great Depression. She was the firstborn of preachers Mark and Gertrude Nix. She was the sibling to two sisters, Pam and Barbara, and a brother, Bill. She grew up poor, but such is the life of a minister, and much more so if during the worst economic collapse in American history.
Growing up in that era and in that position, however, developed a greatness within her. It developed a strength and a stubbornness that was unshakeable. From doing without during the 1930s, as many families did, to using ration coupons and donating scrap metal in the early 1940s, as most families did, she learned a lot about sacrifice and putting others well before herself.
Throughout all of these life lessons taught by the world’s economic, political, and military upheavals, her parents were teaching her life lessons that proved more valuable. She was being taught holiness and righteousness and truth and forgiveness and faith and temperance and love and patience and character. She was being taught the virtues that guide a meaningful life and preserve a good name.
She learned these virtues and she embraced them. But she didn’t abide by them simply because she was told that she should. She abided by them because her parents continued to prove the valuation of a good name. She was a Nix and that meant a lot, even if her family had very little. She was a daughter and a sister who completely understood the absolute necessity of upholding the family namesake.
Her name changed on September 17, 1950 when she married my Papaw, James Ray McDonald, but her understanding of the value of her name did not. The hardships and trials she had experienced with her family had developed the character and qualities necessary to overcome the challenges of marriage and motherhood.
My grandparents had a long, lasting, and wonderful marriage, but it was not without its hardships. All marriages have their hardships, like conflict of personalities, financial strains, and in-laws. They had these typical problems, but there were also very unique problems, which I won’t divulge, except for one. It is the one that stood out to me the most.
Papaw grew up in a very different environment. The only similarity was that he too was poor. There was very little that was right about his home life. He grew up in a very dark environment of drunkenness and abuse—two things he steered very far from. But there was a cloud that hung over him, and it followed him into his marriage. He was cool. He was handsome. He was brilliant. He was a Christian. The latter was the most important aspect for Monzy.
A few years after they married, something changed in Papaw that led him to believe that he couldn’t live up to Christianity. He felt he just wasn’t good enough. He soon refused to go to church. For their marriage, it was a stunning blow. With two children, it was like an electric bolt had smashed into the center of their family. The most valuable aspect of Monzy’s marriage was placed on a shelf.
Take a moment to think of the most important thing you built or would build your marriage upon. The two of you had decided that this would be the centerpiece. And then your spouse changed their mind years into the marriage. The utter dynamic of your marriage has now changed. How would you react? How would you resolve the differences? Would you quit or persevere?
If you had grown up during the Great Depression and during World War II; if you had been raised by ministers who relied on Jesus almost to a fault; if your life was consumed with pursuing the fruits of the Spirit; if you believed in the power of prayer and fasting and patience and perseverance; then you most likely would have taken the route Monzy took.
She continued to take the kids to church. She prayed for Papaw. She fasted for Papaw. She received godly council. She continued to ask him to go to church. She continued to pursue a good name, even while Papaw was contemplating devaluing it. She continued until she received an answer.
While praying one night at the altar, she received her answer. She said it looked like a red flashing light that read: “James will be saved.” She stopped praying, stood up, and began her wait for the answer to be revealed.
Her birthday was coming up and Papaw asked what he could do or get her for her birthday. She told him to come to church with her. He complied and heard a sermon he had never heard before. It was a sermon about the love of God preached by church’s new pastor, Rev. C.L. Dees. That day Papaw came back to Christ and never looked back. Monzy ensured the restoration of her family name.
The two renewed a strong, loving, and godly marriage. There were still the fights. There were still the hardships. There were still the problems. But they worked through them. All of them. Even till the day Papaw passed away on Jan. 18, 2009.
I was the last grandchild to come along. Before I arrived on the scene, the name “Monzy” had become the mandated moniker. I remember writing a paper in middle school about my favorite place on earth. It was my grandparents’ house. You could stay up late and sleep in. It was cartoons and cereal in the mornings. Playing outside in the yard all day. Eating ice cream and watching movies at night. My brother and I always slept on pallets beside my grandparents’ bed, despite there being a guest bedroom. As I write this, I realize I always slept on Monzy’s side.
Monzy represented more than just a grandmother, though I didn’t realize this until I got much older. She represented what a godly woman is supposed to be. She was faithful. She was kind. She was giving. She was forgiving. She was steadfast. She was humble. She was patient. She was prayerful. She was comforting. She was wise. She was knowledgeable. She was a mentor. She was a confidant. She was a friend. She was a role model of the highest order. She was a Christian in the purest sense. She exemplified the fruits of the Spirit. She had a seemingly direct line to God. And as the years turned into decades, she proved the name of Monzy to be more than just a matriarchal nickname.
Just as with Yvonne Gertrude Nix and Mrs. McDonald, she established a reputation with the name of Monzy. A reputation that preceded the name. It came through a central focus on what a good name was worth. It is worth the hardships and sacrifices. It is worth more than great riches. It is worth everything.
Monzy. The name will live on because that is simply what icons do.