The following is a tribute I wrote for my grandmother, Lelia Place’s funeral this past week. John suggested that I share it here on my blog. I wasn’t sure at first, but I think I am ready now. I am also thinking of my mother in law, Mavis Hilleson this morning as I pour boiling water on my Thanksgiving tablecloths. No fear of red jello here! On this day after Thanksgiving, I am reminded of how many wonderful, strong, women of faith have poured their time, talents, and selves into me. I am very blessed and beyond thankful.
Gifts from my Grandma
My grandma gave me many gifts over the course of my lifetime. I would like to share seven of them with you today.
- The Gift of Hospitality– Grandma’s door was always open to me and she was always glad to see me. This wasn’t just for me or for her other grandchildren. They had a hired man named Carl who lived with the family all throughout my mom’s growing up years. John and I have had several employees on our farm over the years and I can’t imagine inviting any of them to live with our family, but Grandma did. I remember many stories about a certain seed corn salesman who just happened to call on them at dinnertime every time he came to call. She always told this story with the air of someone who knew exactly what was going on, but she served him dinner anyway.
- The Gift of Enough– She and my grandfather were married during the Depression. Since she and Grandpa had enough to eat, they were considered “wealthy” and her younger siblings were sent to live with them. Because she had enough, Grandma felt it was her responsibility to help others as she was able. It was and remains a powerful lesson to me. If you have enough, you are wealthy.
- The Gift of Simplicity- Living during the Great Depression left its mark on my grandma. She knew how to make do and to be content with simple things. During the first year of their marriage, Grandma really wanted to have a Christmas tree, so she made a small one out of leftover scraps of aluminum foil as a decoration. Even after the Depression, when our country enjoyed a more widespread prosperity, I don’t think you could rightly say that she was a “fancy” woman, but like the Velveteen Rabbit, she was Real.
- The Gift of Generosity- When it came time for me to buy my first car, I needed it, but I didn’t have the money. Grandma was there. She readily loaned me the money, but not before I understood that this was a LOAN, not a gift, and that she wouldn’t charge me interest, but she did expect monthly payments that we later set up. She made sure my needs were met, while giving me dignity and responsibility in the bargain. I know for a fact I am not the only person in this room that she did that for. When I was in college, she and Dale would just happen to drop by on a Friday night and see if I wanted to go out to dinner with them. She knew I couldn’t afford to go out to eat and just wanted to be a blessing.
- The Gift of Self- After John & I got married, and the babies came, and life got really busy, I found it was more difficult than it should be to visit her, even though she lived just three miles away. No matter, she would just stop by when she was out running errands and we would get to visit for awhile. She didn’t complain that she visited me more often than I visited her, we just enjoyed our time that we spent together.
- The Gift of Work- My grandmother was a hard worker and an accomplished woman. To my knowledge, there is not one aspect of their farming operation that she couldn’t manage. She kept the books for his seed corn business, she drove the tractors, she managed her own herd of sheep. But even after that work was done, she worked alongside of me, passing her knowledge on. She spent countless hours on my porch peeling apples, teaching me to add a little salt to the water to keep the apple slices white or a little lemon juice to the sauce to make it taste fresh. Fitted sheets were a mystery to me, until she showed me the trick to folding them. There are a million different ways I am reminded of her as I go about my everyday work.
- The Gift of Faith- Like many people in her generation, still waters ran deep. She was not particularly showy about her faith, but it was there and it was real. Grandma prayed for her family every day. She put her trust in her Lord. In the hospital, Grandma told Gabe how proud she was of him for becoming a preacher. The last words she spoke to me were “The Bible promise…go home.” And so we grieve today, but not as those who have no hope, because we know that she is in the presence of the Lord, completely healed, more alive than she has ever been. For those of us who have put our trust in Christ, today is not goodbye forever. Today is just the beginning of a temporary separation.