i see Jesus in my grandma

That was pretty much the theme of Grandma’s funeral yesterday. The thing we all remember most clearly is Jesus shining through her. It was a beautiful day, a hard day, a fun day, an exhausting day. An exhausting week, really.

But God is good. And faithful. And I’m finding rest in him today.

I wanted so badly to honor Grandma at her funeral with some words, because we’re both such word-lovers, but I felt depleted, like I just didn’t have any left in me. A big ol’ thanks to God for reminding me of a post I wrote over three years ago. I searched for it, printed it out, and read it during the service. It was perfect.

Here goes:

I’ve been feeling pensive lately. More pensive than usual, I should say.

Pensive = wistfully or dreamily thoughtful. Or even more precisely–expressing or revealing thoughtfulness, usually marked by some sadness.

I’ve mentioned before that my grandma (Joan, pronounced Jo-Ann) is in a nursing home. She’s 88. My grandpa (who died in 2005) was a dairy farmer. My uncle Tim now owns Grandpa’s farm and has been “renting” Grandma’s house to her for several years. Now that she doesn’t live there, Tim has no choice but to rent it to someone else. If he doesn’t, he can’t make the farm payments.

So, the insides of Grandma’s house are being dismantled, and her possessions are being distributed amongst her seven kids and a slew of grandkids.

I love that Grandma can say, “I want Marla to have my books on writing and all of Leona’s letters from Ethiopia.”

I hate that time is marching on, people are getting old, and that life as I know it is changing. I want Grandpa back in his comfy chair in his white t-shirt, faded jeans and old, brown slippers. I want Grandma to pull up a dining room chair beside him while all of us young’uns gather around talking and laughing and playing.

As I look through Grandma’s things and visit her in the nursing home, I’m learning things I never knew. About Grandma. About her mom. About me.

Here’s a typed postcard I found in one of the books (Grandma is notorious for stuffing her millions of books with letters, programs, whathaveyou). It’s from Grandma to her mama.

“Homestead Farm” 12:45 p.m. West Liberty, O. (December 27, 1978)

Dear Mother,

(Ten days later–Jan. 6, 1979) (This is totally something I’d do–start a letter, then find it forever later and try again.)

Well, I’ve just taken the Christmas tree down and have returned the big box of decorations to the attic. And I have addressed several letters. Lily called this morning. She was lonesome to talk to us. I definitely promised her a letter. They had just received your very welcome three-page letter. I guess that I’ll never be the faithful letter-writer to all of my children that you were to me for so many years. Thanks again. I’m afraid that I am just kidding myself when I talk about being a Christian writer.

Love, Joan (in her handwriting)

I can’t get over this postcard. I’ve never met a more faithful letter-writer than my grandma. I don’t know if she just kicked it into gear in 1979 (I was three) or if she wasn’t giving herself enough credit.

[I asked everybody at the funeral to raise their hands if they’d ever gotten a letter from my grandma. A ton of hands went up. Then I asked them to raise their hands if they’d gotten more than 20. Every single family member of mine kept their hands in the air.]

Then tonight I found a letter Grandma’s friend Virginia had written to her on May 7, 1961. Mom told me Virginia’s daughter Sheila died when she was 17.

Dearest Joan,

Just a note to thank you for your very kind letter, the card with the consoling thoughts, and most of all, for taking time out of your busy life to do all of this for us. The Bible verses are so precious; I sat down immediately to read them, and shall read them many times in the future.

You have such a wonderful family, Joan. Terence is a handsome chap, and so well-mannered. I notice him each Sunday evening and marvel. You are rich indeed!

As I have been going through my school material, sorting, cataloging, etc., the thought keeps reoccurring to me how mortal we all are in trying to acquire so many possessions which adds so little to the sum total of our lives. Most of us are so busy making a living and performing the various duties and activities each day, and we don’t give enough time for fellowship and communion with our Lord. I know this is not true of you. One does not have to be around you more than ten minutes to realize the closeness you have to God. I know that it has been an act of self surrender and prayer on your part to be able to display that “inner calmness” which is so necessary to take us through the trials and interruptions of each day. Very few have this “special something,” Joan.

I must admit that I’ve always wanted to be a Christian, but put other activities first. The Lord had to “bend” me to make me realize it. Sheila was the dearest thing in the world to both Carl and me. The others (Dick and Billie) were more or less on their own, at least weren’t quite so dependent on us. Since we have lost Sheila, we now realize that all things are temporary–only one thing remains always–and that is Christ. We now hope to spend the rest of our life on earth living for Him and serving our fellowmen.

Thank you, Joan, for all that you have done. I cherish you as one of my dearest friends.

Love, Virginia

[And this next part is the part where I fell apart. I managed to read it through my tears, but I don’t know if anyone even understood what I was saying.]

Grandma, you’re every bit a “real writer.” And waaaaay more importantly, you love Jesus (and therefore, others) with all of your heart, and it shows. You use words not to puff yourself up but to speak life and truth into the hearts of those around you.

I want to be just like you when I grow up.

10 thoughts on “i see Jesus in my grandma

  1. beth lehman

    finally reading this post – i loved it. how precious to read that others thought of your grandma as you did. what a legacy. i’m completely inspired and reminded of my husband’s grandma (a lehman). so godly – so quiet and yet so powerful with her love and relationship with god and those around her.

  2. Mary Hixson

    Dear Marla — thank you for such a sweet description of your grandmother – obviously a Godly woman who touched many lives. I know your family feels so blessed that she was “yours” – but sounds like many others are gratefull that you shared her so well with them. As I move through the seasons of my own life from Mother to now Great Grandma…….I realize the privilege it is to not only dearly love your children, theirs and your grandkid’s babies…….but to pray for them and lift them to Jesus everyday. It is something we can do until we take our last breath. Your tribute to Joan encourages my heart to want to reflect Jesus in every possible opportunity to those sweet hearts entrusted to my life. My prayer for you and your family is that these tender memories of your grandmother will be shared down through the generations yet to become a part of your clan. And in doing so — you will find great comfort.

    I will be wanting to read your blog notes often as you write very well and from your heart. Thanks !
    P.S. I am Christy Yoder’s aunt…..she shared your words on FB.

  3. Jen Hanson

    Beautiful. Thanks for posting this again. Missed you all yesterday. I love you cousin – you are well on your way to being just like Grandma when you grow up. 🙂

  4. Yalonda

    Beautifully written, Marla! Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    What a precious gift that your grandmother has given to you. You used some words to describe your grandmother, and I would use them to describe you… “You love Jesus (and therefore, others) with all of your heart, and it shows.”

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