Betty Jo... aka Grandma :)
Today would have been my Grandma's 82nd birthday...
She passed away 4 years ago (this September) but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to celebrate her... and her life. Anyone who loses a loved one that they were close to knows this truth: it doesn't get easier. You don't miss them less today than the day before or the year before. There will always be a certain void in your heart and sometimes you still feel the shock and permanency that she is really gone...all over again. She was the best Grandma ever and I certainly look forward to being with her again in heaven one day.
But today, I just want to celebrate the woman she was... the Grandmother she was and the full life she lived... making everyone feel loved and accepted, exactly as they are.
My Grandma made pie like nobody's business. Pumpkin pie, Apple pie, Cherry pie... but the family favorite was, without a doubt, Sugar pie. She never wrote down how she made it, nor did she follow a recipe. She just knew the right ingredients to make a slice of heaven. And believe you me, I have tried every sugar pie recipe I have found... nothing tastes like Grandma's sugar pie.
And, my oh my... her magic cookie bars during Christmas. Or her pinwheel date cookies. Or her chocolate chip cookies. My Grandma could bake like no one I have ever met... and you were always guaranteed a dessert after a delicious home-cooked meal. She loved when people were eating...it was her way of taking care of you. It was an act of service to her and one of my fondest memories of her giving character. I have found so much inspiration through her to bake and to cook. My mom has recipe boxes full of her old recipes... which I have photo copied onto my own recipe cards. They are so special to me... not only because they are her recipes... but because they are written in her distinctive handwriting. Any time I want to try something new... I always go to her recipes...they never disappoint.
I remember spending weeks during childhood summers at my grandparents house. I used to love to go pick fresh vegetables from their garden so my grandma could use it in our lunch or dinner. I especially loved pulling any root vegetable out of the ground... I have no idea why, but I just found extreme enjoyment out of pulling something out of dirt. I make my tuna with hard boiled egg and green onion on toasted bread... because that is how she made it. I always add green bell pepper to my spaghetti sauce... because it reminds me of her spaghetti... I wouldn't even think of making any other carrot cake recipe than hers... surely nothing would even come close to measuring up. (I can't make the carrot cake very often, however. Lack of discipline has taught me that I can very easily eat the whole cake in a matter of two days. haha) Certain things... like beans and a ham hock in a crock-pot... will always remind me of Grandma's house.
I am thankful that my Grandma took the time to teach me how to crochet and knit... I remember cuddling next to her on cold winter days while we crocheted away together. My grandma never lacked hugs or cuddles. She was very affectionate, very loving. I started an afghan when I was 7 years old... and every winter I would pull it out and crochet it with her on the days she would come and visit. I rarely worked on it by myself. I finished it when I was 18 years old... and every row that was crocheted reminds me of a different year that I crocheted with her. It is now in my guest bedroom... and will always be very special to me.
There is never a lack of afghans or sweaters... my Grandma made so many... she was so good at it. You could always look forward to a new afghan or sweater for Christmas... and it was always so appreciated as it was a labor of her love. If any of you have read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman... you will understand her love language as a true Acts of Service.
There was nothing you could say or do to make her love you any less. She supported you no matter what. She was always on your side. She was loyal, caring, sincere and genuine. Somehow, situations always seemed a little less "bad" after talking to her. You were certain that things would be okay. She defined the word nurturing.
Sure, my Grandma accomplished plenty in her lifetime... but that is not what I remember. I remember the way she made me feel. A true example of love... always had a kind, reassuring word... always had something baked to make a good day extra sweet... always had a hug waiting for you at the end of the day.
The older I get... the more my outlook on life changes. Who cares if I don't pursue my doctorate. Who cares if I don't even get a masters. The adventurous life I dreamed about...flying commercial jets and having a career... doesn't really matter as much to me anymore. Life isn't about how much you can accumulate... how prestigious your career is... how happy YOU are. If I've learned anything from my Grandma...it would be that life isn't about YOU at all. It is about loving God and loving others. That is the "secret" of life... not that it is a secret at all. I think Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:28-31). Notice He never mentioned to love the Lord and then to love yourself. No, the bible teaches quite the opposite. Loving and serving other people sincerely will result in your own happiness. This was so evident in my Grandma's life; she had this concept mastered. She served others joyfully... and what an inspiration that is to me. No, I may never have the career I dreamed about... but a career will certainly not bring you joy. I don't want to be remembered for all the ways I seeked to make myself happy, but how I served others and loved them more than I loved myself.
Yes, I will miss my Grandma for the remainder of my life... but more than that, I will celebrate the wonderful woman she was... for the remainder of my life. She was such a humble woman... and would probably never believe what an impact her life has had on so many... Again, just one more reason to admire her character and be inspired by the person she was.