Growing up, I quickly learned that I was different from many of my peers. My parents were married to each other. My siblings weren’t half or stepsiblings. All four of my grandparents were alive. I even had a great-grandmother still living. My great-grandmother died during my sophomore year in high school. My Grandpa died a few weeks after I graduated college. My Grandma died in June 2015, not long after we moved to Plainview. On July 31, my Grandmama died. I loved each of these people, but my relationship with her was extra special. She was more than just a grandmother. She was a friend and mentor. She was always in my corner, supporting and praying for me.
Lesson 1: Be Present
My grandmother was present for every major milestone in my life. My baptism, my high school, college, and grad school graduations, my wedding, and the birth of my firstborn. She told me that my babies were really hers, but she would let me raise them. I think she probably said this to all her grandkids and even her own children. She let me know that I was doing an amazing job – and these words always came at the right time.
Lesson 2: Search the Scriptures
My grandmother did not “grow up in the church.” At some point, she went to VBS and was given a little Bible. She searched the scriptures and went to every congregation in town seeking the Truth. She knew what the Bible said, but every place she went she knew something was missing. She met my grandfather when they were sixteen. She was dating his friend at the time, but he decided that wouldn’t do. When they begin dating, she went to church with him and his family, and finally found that missing piece. One Wednesday night, my grandfather had to work, but my grandmother went to services and was baptized for the forgiveness of sins. She didn’t do this for him or his parents – her only audience was the Creator and Savior. She lived her faith every day of her life. She continued to read and study her Bible. She taught her children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren through both words and actions.
Lesson 3: Be hospitable
We never had to wonder what my grandmother thought about anything. She shared her pride as well as disappointment. She encouraged and supported us and prayed for us daily. My grandmother could crochet, cross-stitch, and sew. She made numerous baby Afghans and quilts. One of her cross-stitch projects was a parliament of owls with the caption “there’s always room for one more.” At the time, there were seven grandchildren, so the picture has two big owls and seven various-sized smaller ones. About a year and a half after hanging it, two more grandkids had been added. This sentiment didn’t only apply to grandkids though. Everyone was welcome at my grandmother’s house. On more than one occasion, my dad’s brothers and sister would come to family events. My uncle’s mother spent several holidays with us after she moved in with my aunt and uncle due to Alzheimer’s. All our friends growing up were welcome. She started this with her own children, who often brought home “extras” or strays for the holidays. She taught hospitality by living it.
Lesson 4: Be Diligent in your Faith
My grandmother knew hardship. Her family was poor, and she remembered times when food was scarce. She knew how to fend for herself and do what needed to be done without being asked. She made a choice to walk with Christ and didn’t look back. She looked for ways to reach up to God for answers and then reached out to others with all she could offer.
Lesson 5: Family Matters
During Peter’s first deployment, we lived in Colorado Springs. I was pregnant with Dietrich, and we decided I should stay with my parents for the last trimester. A lot of things happened during that time, the biggest of which was my dad was diagnosed with and treated for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (now in full remission). My grandmother came for his first treatment and at least one other to stay with me, “just in case.” She was there when my baby boy was born. She rode back to Colorado Springs with me when Dietrich was three months old and flew back home, just so I wouldn’t have to make the trip alone. She also came to the funerals of my “other grandparents,” to show her love and support for my dad. When someone married into the family, she completely adopted them as her own.
Lesson 6: Be Spontaneous
My grandparents took many trips over the years, sometimes they would just get in the car and go. During the summers of my college years and while I went to graduate school, I lived with my grandparents and worked at my grandfather’s company. One of those years, I attended a quilt class with her. Each month we made a new block and by the end of the year, we had a quilt. I made all the blocks, and she finished the quilt. She surprised me with both a visit and the finished quilt on my birthday in 2011. The last “surprise” visit was in April 2016, before her back surgery which didn’t go as smoothly as planned.
Lesson 7: Keep Working, until you are not able
After her back surgery (and subsequent surgeries to fix what didn’t go right), she still worked on her quilts and scrapbooks, though it became less at a time. She finished all the grandkids’ books and was working through the great-grands when she couldn’t do anymore, sometime last year. When I say scrapbooking, I don’t mean putting pictures in an album with a few names and dates. Our lives and family history are thoroughly documented in these books. (I have five). She took great care to know what was going on in our lives, showed interest in our activities, and knew our friends’ names. She loved our friends because we did. She offered wisdom from the Bible, insight from experience, and unwavering support. Her prayers never faltered. Even when she was in great pain, she held on to her Hope.
I am deeply sad because Grandmama’s presence in my life was so big. I am immeasurably grateful, for the many years and memories and that my children knew her so well. I am angry that the events of 2020 stole valuable time from us. I am relieved that she is free from pain and suffering. Yet more than all those feelings, I am overwhelmed by the example of God’s love that she poured out every day of her life. Her legacy is one that clings to Hope, always reaching up to the Father and out to His people.