My Grandma died last Friday.
In a way that felt too fast. Like I had been cheated out of “goodbye.”
But also in a way that was merciful. Like for her sake, I was glad she didn’t linger. Or suffer.
It’s not lost on me how blessed I am to have been close with three of my grandparents. Many people never know theirs at all, having grandparents who die early in their lives, or who are separated by distances too great to be crossed on a regular basis.
It turns out I’m doubly blessed, because not only have I known my grandparents, but I’ve also had grandparents worth knowing. My grandparents are among the very best people I’ve ever encountered.
And so in Grandma’s memory, I’d like to share twelve lessons from her. Lessons she taught; lessons she lived; and lessons that will continue to impact me as I look back fondly on her life and her legacy.
Life Lessons from Grandma
1.)Lavish people with grace. Grandma was overflowing with true graciousness and a genuine love for other people. People of all ages flocked to her, finding in her presence unconditional love and kindness. She was quick to forgive; quick to overlook offenses; and quick to give people the benefit of the doubt.
2.)Leave people better off than you find them. As a woman who understood the power of one, Grandma offered small gestures to people that made a world of difference in their lives. Sometimes it was the glow of her contagious smile or a warm hug. Sometimes it was a hot meal (preferably a bowl of pinto beans with a side of corn bread). Often it was a nice, long chat or a handwritten note. Notice there’s nothing terribly profound on this list. There didn’t have to be. Grandma’s consistent displays of unconditional love in very ho-hum ways had an effect on people that was far from ho-hum.
3.)Prize your family. I can’t think of anything that was more important to Grandma, besides her faith. As a young woman, all she wanted was to get married and have babies. To the point that she defied her parents’ desire for her to go to college and eloped with my grandpa. Her family has been her priority ever since. She made a habit of listening earnestly to each one of us, no matter our ages. She fed us generously with homemade cobblers and potato salad that no one else can quite manage to duplicate. She religiously sent birthday and anniversary cards letting us know how proud she was of us. She delighted in our company, in a way that left us feeling special and loved.
4.)Don’t be a snob. Yes, she prized her family. But she was the furthest thing from cliquish. In her eyes, there was no such thing as an outsider; only newcomers she welcomed with open arms – literally! She loved her in-laws just as much as her own offspring, and they couldn’t help but return the sentiments. Whether you were a cashier, a fellow church member, a neighbor, or the man who mowed her grass, you were greeted with cheerfulness and genuine interest.
5.)If you’re going to give a hug, make it a good one. Grandma gave hugs that left no doubt in your mind that you had been hugged completely; but even more, that you had been truly welcomed…accepted…embraced. With no prerequisites required and no strings attached. Her hugs were lingering, revealing that she had all the time in the world for you. Her hugs were firm, indicating that her regard for you was resolute. Her hugs were tight, as she clasped you in her arms even as she clasped you in her heart.
6.)Claim your freedom. Heaven help you if you were a government official who made choices Grandma didn’t agree with! You’d be sure to receive a handwritten letter or two or a dozen during your term. Why? Because she took seriously her role as a citizen of this great country. She was part of a generation who is aware of the high cost of our freedom, having had many loved ones serve to protect it.
7.)Truth doesn’t change. She held firmly to biblical views of right and wrong, and she wasn’t ashamed to talk about it. Her heart ached for the moral decline of this country she loved so. She couldn’t comprehend how people could so defiantly reject God; reject morality; and reject the principles on which our nation was founded. In her mind, truth was absolute – unchanged by passing trends, and unfazed by passing time.
8.)Prayer changes things. Grandma was a prayer warrior. Here’s just one example: she prayed every day without fail for a granddaughter who had gone astray. I know it thrilled her heart and affirmed her faith to see the radical transformation in my cousin’s life over the past couple of years. She even got to see that granddaughter’s entire family reunited this past summer. This cousin will be the first to tell you that the prayers offered on her behalf are what made the difference in her life.
9.)You make time for what’s important. Grandma’s priorities were reflected in the way she spent her time — namely, God and people. Not being able to drive, she would’ve had a good excuse to sit out a Sunday service or two, and most certainly a Wednesday night prayer meeting every now and then. But she remained faithful in church attendance to the end, thanks to the church bus ministry and the kindness of fellow church members.
One example of Grandma’s prioritizing of relationships is the family reunion she and my grandpa established more than 30 years ago. As their children grew up and started families of their own, Grandma and Grandpa realized the need for a time set aside every year for reestablishing family bonds. And so for a whole week every summer the Angoves have gathered for some concentrated family time in a state park. The young cousins who grew up in the 80s look forward to bringing their own children to this much-beloved spot each year. It occurs to me that lots of families talk about wanting to spend more time together. But my grandparents’ decision to start this tradition decades ago reveal that they truly prioritized their family’s time together.
10.)Change can be good. I was doubtful when Grandma’s six children bought her a computer about a dozen years ago. I didn’t know any elderly people who used a computer, and I couldn’t imagine Grandma having a desire to spend time learning how to use one. Much to my surprise, she became the queen of email in no time, relishing the lightning fast method of sending notes to her loved ones.
11.)Count your blessings. This was her favorite hymn and unofficial motto. She was an eternal optimist; even in the worst of times, she held fast to the belief that God was still in charge and that tomorrow would be a better day. Counting her blessings is what allowed her to see the best in others. Counting her blessings is also what prompted her to embrace the blessings brought by change, rather than being overwhelmed by the fears that plague so many.
12.)Point people to Jesus. And that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? At Grandma’s funeral, more than one person remarked that when they were in her presence, they had a distinct sense of being in the presence of Jesus. That’s how well she loved. How well she lived.
I can’t begrudge my grandma’s Savior for calling her to her heavenly home. After all, she wasn’t truly “mine.” She wasn’t even her own. She was bought with a price. (I Corinthians 6:19-20) And since I was bought with that same price, I can only look forward to the day when I’ll get another one of those hugs I’ll miss so much in the meantime.