My grandma let me eat powdered sugar donuts, and she didn’t even flinch when the white powder misted over the green vinyl tablecloth and chunks of cake tumbled to the floor.
At her kitchen table, I tasted my first bowl of Froot Loops. My mom bought only Rice Krispies and Cheerios. Being allowed to eat brightly colored, sugar laden cereal was, in my five-year-old brain, a sure sign of my grandma’s affection for me. And when she pulled the package of Oreos out of the cupboard, I was certain that I was adored.
Grandma bought me ruffled dresses for my birthday, read “The Pokey Little Puppy” Golden Book at least a thousand times, and rocked me to sleep while singing “Bimbo.” I cannot recall a time when Grandma lost her patience with me, not even when she rocked me through the night when I was feverish and miserably suffering through the chicken pox.
She sang when she washed the dishes and told me stories of learning three-part harmony while standing at the kitchen sink with her sisters. When the dishes were done, she let me plunk at the piano keys and then laughed when I spun myself dizzy on the piano stool. Then she would sit at the piano herself, opening up her music and playing with the same smooth grace that I saw in her when she waltzed in Grandpa’s arms.
She took me to the library and let me spend as much time as I wanted selecting books. When I was finished, we stopped at the grocery store, where she told me to choose any piece of candy that I wanted. The choice was agonizing because it was such a rare treat, and I wanted to both savor the freedom to choose and make the perfect selection.
In my childhood, the things Grandma did for me and allowed me to do were at the forefront of my mind. As I grew up, I began to realize that her impact on my life was far more profound than providing me with powdered sugar donuts.
Grandma’s presence was reliable throughout my life. She was there at basketball games, music concerts, and awards ceremonies. At every birthday party and every Christmas Eve, Grandma’s presence was a certainty. She drove 45 miles one way to take me to piano lessons, and during those drives we spoke about my future.
Actually, it was a bit of a one-sided conversation. Grandma was a champion of education, and she was determined that her grandchildren would go to college. When I announced my engagement, her statement was simple. “Congratulations. You better be planning to stay and finish college.” Her pride was evident when she watched me grasp my diploma.
To read about my experiences with her, a person would think that I was an only grandchild. The truth is that she extended this dedication nine times over, and she had a special connection with her 15 great grandchildren as well.
The evolution of my admiration for Grandma never stopped. My five-year-old appreciation for the sweetened cereal gave way to an appreciation of her beauty and grace. I admired her wit and her ability to retain everything she read or heard, and I was certain that she could defeat any of the Jeopardy contestants that she faithfully watched five days a week. But later in my life, when she watched each of my four children at the baptismal font, I realized that she has been the steadfast example of how to live as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.
Grandma’s faith was an inseparable component of her life. She didn’t lecture me about how to live as a Christian; she showed me. She didn’t tell me how to nurture my children; she had already demonstrated it in my early years. She did not offer marital advice; she griped about Grandpa’s habits while dedicating nearly 65 years of her life as his wife. She was not afraid of death. She was thankful for her blessings, had lived a full life, and was ready to meet her Savior.
I only wish that I could let her go with the same grace that she possessed.
Well done, good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord. ~ Matthew 25:23