I learned the importance of example through my grandmother. My grandmother didn’t just tell me what she believed – she lived it. Her guidance came backed with the stamp of her example.
I never remember having any conversations about the do’s and don’ts of life with my grandma. No deep discussions…our interactions were more filled with working together (if you call making cookies and eating strawberries out of her garden work) and play time.
My sweet grandma was shaped like an inverted hour glass with not a lot of distance between her shoes and her head. She made her own butter from the fresh milk grandpa supplied from his cows, canned the proceeds from her large garden, baked her own bread, and my grandpa drove her everywhere because she didn’t drive.
I was only 5 or 6 years old when grandma’s dad passed away. Though I wasn’t very old, I understood the devastation my great grandfather’s death left for my grandma as her mother lost her will to live and the roles of mother and child were reversed.
Watching my grandmother deal with her mother after the loss of my great grandfather created some concerns for me. For years, I worried how my grandma would cope if she ever lost my grandpa. My grandpa and grandpa were true sweethearts and it was easy to imagine my grandma coping with losing my grandpa just the way her own mom had.
I always wondered why my grandma made sure that she attended the funeral of every family and community member in her small community. My grandma was not a stranger to death. She lost 3 children before they reached the age of 2. It took me several years to realize her attendance at so many funerals was not a result of pre-occupation with death but a desire, on her part, to be of comfort to those she knew and loved.
After we lost grandpa – grandma showed me what she was really made of. One of the first things she did was take driving lessons and, from what I understand, grandma’s biggest driving challenge was seeing over the dashboard – no problem with the other essential driving skills! In those months after grandpa died, grandma pulled herself up by her bootstraps and she forged ahead. She had always taught me about eternal families and the way she moved ahead with her life let me know that although she greatly missed her sweetheart – she knew that their parting was temporary and that she needed to step up and take care of business in his absence.
It was less than a year after my grandpa died that grandma had her first stroke. Once again, she showed the mettle she was made of. Instead of giving up, she was fully cooperative with her rehabilitation therapy. Her doctors predicted a full recovery.
The last time I saw my grandma I had one of those rare moments where the exchange we had did not need words but only holding hands. As I looked into her eyes, I knew that she was telling me good-bye. The way that she squeezed my hand, looked into my eyes and smiled at me communicated to my spirit that she knew her time had come and that I needed to know that she would be okay. Grandma had a massive stroke within a few days of my last visit.
I never recognized the example my grandma set for me until she was gone. In fact, some of the most memorable examples she set for were in the last few months of her life.
At her funeral, it was noted that her last and final church calling (job) had been working with the infants and toddlers in her ward nursery. She served as nursery leader in her ward until she had her stroke. She never complained or said she was too old – she simply embraced and loved the little children that she worked with.
My grandma did not have a lot of material wealth. I still chuckle when I think about the colored tricot underwear my brother and boy cousins received one year for Christmas (well before colored underwear for boys was considered fashionable)! As the grandmother of 30+ grandchildren and 6 living children – my grandmother spent endless hours making gifts for her family. She worked hard to make her gift-giving budget stretch – she worked even harder to show her love through her hand-made gifts.
My grandma was not a perfect woman but she knew that how she lived mattered. She had mortal flaws like anyone but she consistently made an effort to be the kind of person she believed God wanted her to be. Her example taught me that when life hands me difficulties – it’s okay not to have a perfect understanding of how to handle those trials as long as I am trying to do my best and I am utilizing the correct source of help (God). She provided me with an example of can do not give up. She showed me that giving of self is more important than giving of things. She believed in eternal families and when loved ones were lost – she did not question those beliefs she simply confirmed them by her actions. And possibly the greatest example my grandma set for me was in showing me that it is through the small acts, the little courtesies, and the insignificant events that never make news headlines that this world is made a better place and I am made a better person. What a blessing to recognize that by coming to understand what my grandmother has taught me through her example – I have been granted another “Glimpse of Heaven”!