Lessons from Gram

Over the past several years I’ve made it a point to regularly send my Gram a card.  Every few weeks usually, but sometimes more sporadic.  As dementia slowly took hold, I knew that she we wouldn’t be capable of responding, but I wanted her to have cards and letters to read (and re-read).  While technology is “nifty” and digital pictures can be shared, having a card in your hands to read was the best gift I could give her.  I met a darling woman at a craft show who handmade lovely cards, and I made it a point to stock up on them every time I saw her.  She knew I bought them to send to my grandmother, and we shared many a hug as I picked them out and gave her an update.

My cards and short notes usually talk about the weather, the garden, the flowers blooming, the depth of the snow, or the height of the grass in the fields.  I would share about a special lunch with a friend, or a quick trip to the big city for errands.  Things that might be small and seemingly insignificant in my fast paced world, could be a glimpse at my life for her.  So I shared as often as I could.  I was always glad when I could tell her that I would see her in a few weeks, or when I could thank her for her hospitality and a great visit. As much as the cards were a newsy update in a format Gram would appreciate, they were also an opportunity for me to recount my blessings, and take pleasure in the smallest things in life, and the gifts and influence she has had on my life.

My Gram was 93 years old, and has been in hospice care since August of this year.  The past couple of years her health has declined and it was time to make the shift.  A couple of weeks back, Gram tumbled out of bed in the early morning hours and banged up her leg.  As these things go, that started the ball rolling as it were – a blood clot, bed rest, transition to a skilled nursing facility, and ultimately her passing from this life.

As you can imagine, I’ve been replaying scenes of my life the past few days, and thinking about the remarkable woman I call Gram, and her influence in my life.  Things I’ve shared with her, and things I haven’t.  Funny memories and life lessons.

She taught me to be frugal and thrifty – rinse and recycle tin cans, rinse and reuse plastic zip-lock bags, neatly fold and store grocery bags – both plastic and paper.  Dilute your shampoo by at least a third to make it last longer, and make and use compost for your garden.

She taught me to appreciate nature and the beauty around us – on hikes, in her garden, and while camping.  By putting food out for the birds, you get to enjoy their presence and beauty and song.  If you walk quietly and listen carefully you will see the birds, the fish, the chipmunks, and if you are really lucky the deer and even a bear or two!

She taught me to wish upon a star, a birthday candle, and a dandelion puff.  Dry the prettiest flowers between the pages of a book, and pick up the pretty glass on the beach.  We also had to pick up all the trash on the beach and the hiking trails and carry it out with us – to make it nice for the next people.

She taught me to love music and books, and that tea in special tea cups always tastes better.  When the table is set with beautiful linens, candles, special china, crystal, and silver – the meal tastes so much better…even take-out pizza! (oh yes we did!)

She was a nurse, and she inspired me to do a job I loved that had meaning, and not worry so much about the size of my paycheck.  As a nurse she also taught me that a jar full of cinnamon red hots could cure anything that ailed me.

She was also a woman of strong Faith.  As a child when I would stay the weekend with her, she would take me to Sunday School on Sunday mornings.  I didn’t know the kids there, but we learned about the bible and the stories within.  There was a big bible in the hallway in her home, and if I was very careful (and she supervised) I could turn the fragile pages gently and she would read a few verses for me.  When I was a young woman, there were many a Sunday when we attended church services together, and she helped to arrange for the pastor for my first wedding.  In times of struggle and challenge in my life I’ve found myself thinking about how my Gram may handle it, and how her example of strong Faith has guided me.  I have wished over the past few months that I could have an opportunity for a true conversation with her about my own Faith journey, and the path I’m on right now – but knowing that while her heart would understand, her mind might not let her participate in the conversation. So instead I prayed and asked God to share with her as only he can.  I have a picture in my head of God telling her about my upcoming baptism, and her rejoicing with silent tears and pure joy and love in her heart.  I hope she’ll tell me about it someday.

She was such a classic and classy woman – full of joy, grace, love, humor, and spirit.  Gracious, humble, and kind.  Trusting, loving, caring, and forgiving.  She was a beautiful woman through and through.  I am truly blessed to have her as an example of a woman I aspire to be.

As I both celebrate and grieve her passing, I share the following verses that I feel capture my beautiful Gram perfectly, and the lessons she has taught me.

 “It is not fancy hair, gold jewelry, or fine clothes that should make you beautiful. No, your beauty should come from inside you –the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. That beauty will never disappear and it is worth very much to God.”  1 Peter 3:3-4

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25

“You are beautiful for you are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14