We buried my grandmother today. She was less than one month shy of her 98th birthday. It’s so cliché, but she was the perfect example of someone who “preached her own funeral” by the way she lived her life. I wish all of you could’ve known her. She was larger than life to me and one of my greatest faith influences. She lived in a tiny town in Southeast Missouri, but she used her circle of influence as well as anyone I’ve ever known and she shared love with everyone she met. Grandma raised eight children, six of them girls, in a three bedroom house with one bathroom. She had fifteen grandchildren, twenty great grandchildren and four great great grandchildren. Our very large family started getting together every year for her birthday starting with her 80th, because in her words, “this will probably be my last one”. My heart is broken that we won’t celebrate one more time this year.
In lieu of a blog this week, I want to post what I had the privilege of sharing at her funeral today. I realize it may not mean as much to many of you as it does to us as her family, but I hope you won’t miss her own words about what is important in this life. May we all strive to live in a way that leaves behind the kind of legacy she has and may we all be as certain of where we’ll spend eternity as she was. So here is "My Tribute".
As I stand here…I can’t help but think about the 17 years of birthday speeches Grandma blessed us with. Every single time she wanted to be sure she told us how much she loved each and every one of us and how grateful she was for her family and friends. None of us ever doubted a single word of that. I love that “each and every one of us” grandchildren would argue that we were her favorite…she always made us feel that way. I love that over the years we collectively gave her more scarves, perfume, jewelry, books, blankets, jackets and trinkets than one person could have ever used but that she made each of us feel like she had never received anything so special in all her life. I love that in her mid-nineties she continued to get excited about skin crème and I will never forget her saying at one of her birthdays in the last few years as she opened a new jar of expensive wrinkle cream, “If I hadn’t run out of this six months ago I wouldn’t have these wrinkles right here” as she pointed to her eye area. I love that if you’ve ever been in the bathrooms of any of her daughters you realize quickly how much she loved a good product and passed that on in a big way. I love that she could write the most beautiful birthday cards with the most beautiful handwriting even if she sometimes sent them on the wrong date in the later years. I love that she somehow kept up with all that was going on with her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren and that she was always happy to post a picture on her fridge. I can only imagine if she had ever figured out Facebook or Instagram how she would’ve bragged about “each and every one of us”.
I love how many friends, boyfriends and girlfriends we’ve taken to her house over the years – and how she made every one of them feel special. I had several of them reach out to me to express what she meant to them in the last few days. I love memories as a small child of her crowded living room and delicious smells coming from her kitchen. And memories of that not so lovely cat food and cat litter smell as she lost her sense of smell over the years. I have memories of jigsaw puzzles, catching lightning bugs, playing in makeup, watching home movies, playing in the dirtiest dirt in all of the world, and running back and forth from the shed to the house. Memories of tiny cereal boxes, homemade candy, and musty closets. We could each talk for weeks about the memories we have over all of our years.
But the thing that meant the very most to me about Grandma was her faith. Not one time in my entire life did I go to her house and not find her Bible and some kind of devotional placed beside her recliner. She spent time with Jesus every day….and I know for absolute certainty that now she’s spending every day with Jesus. In 1998 I gave her a book called “Grandmother Remembers” and asked her to complete it for me. It’s a collection of stories and pictures about all kinds of things….but the last few pages contain a section titled “Thoughts I’d like to share with you”. This is what she wrote:
“My deepest values are my faith in Jesus Christ, my family from the oldest to the youngest, my church and my Christian friends. I love people and value each friend I have. I love my home and love for my family to visit me. I was always sorry I didn’t spend more personal time with the children one on one instead of spending my time cooking, cleaning and laundry. Kids grow up, work never ends. I felt very strongly about instilling self-confidence in my children. I tried to teach them you’re no better than anyone, but good as the best. I wanted the best I could afford for them. I believe in high morals, honesty and letting people know your beliefs and opinions. Everyone has a mind of their own. God gives us that. We just have to use it right.”
I think we will all agree that she succeeded in passing on those things to all of us…and that it is a blessing to be a part of her legacy. I was fortunate to get to visit her in her last few months at home and I will never forget saying goodbye to her on the back porch, where we’ve said our goodbyes dozens of times. She grabbed both of my hands and looked into my soul as only she could….she said to me “I love you. I’m so proud of you. Don’t you ever forget that.” I drove home from Missouri that day knowing that was a God ordained moment and that would likely be the last moments I would spend with her in that way. Although I did get more moments after that day, that is the one I will cherish forever and how I will always remember her. I can’t help but smile thinking of the reunion she and Grandpa and her children and grandchild who went to Heaven before her must’ve had….and how happy she was to walk through the pearly gates on streets of gold. She loves pretty things.
We will miss her so much….but I know of few who lived their lives so well and pray that I can continue to make her proud by honoring the things she cherished and loving others the way she did. And I pray that one day “each and every one of us” will be reunited again at the banquet table in Heaven.
Thank you for letting me honor her and for your love and prayers for our family as we mourn her loss. I feel incredibly blessed to have had her for so long, but I will miss her terribly.