To know the love of a grandparent is a priceless gift. To know that grandparent as an adult, to experience them as a friend and confidant, is beyond words. But today, I dig deep in search of those words to memorialize a wonderful woman – my grandmother, Millie Smith, who was taken from the world much too soon.
My grandma was quite a woman. If you knew her, you knew she was full of kindness, she loved her family and had a real zest for life. Other than the occasional nap, she was always on the go!
Some of my first memories of her were as a young child. She loved being a grandparent and spent hours with us grandkids. I remember making beaded necklaces and sewing up all kinds of things in her craft room. She taught me to sew and to crochet and bought me a sewing machine because she said she wanted to pass on the craft – however I suspect she was just tired of hemming things for people and wanted someone else to learn to do it!
She was multi-faceted, but first and foremost, she was a farmer’s wife. That meant everything from driving tractors, to fixing family meals, to baiting our hooks when she took us fishing at the pond. I can’t even begin to count the hours I spent sitting on a bucket beside her or in her lap, while she picked corn in the combine. I felt quite privileged when she let me steer that big rig!
There were endless hours in her pool and countless slumber parties for me and the cousins at her house. Late nights and lots of laughter.
Perhaps one of her best gifts in life, was that she knew how to give great gifts. She was given the ability to listen to what you needed, and then secretly she’d bless you with it. She was observant and paid attention to details. Although, she’d occasionally buy gifts, wrap them up, forget to write a name on them and then have to unwrap them and figure out for whom they were intended! I recall finding a handful of gifts one spring in a closet and she let me open them and keep them because she had no idea what they were for… It was a set of children’s books and some embroidery floss – I was just sure I had won the lottery that day!
As adulthood began, I saw my grandmother in a new light. She became a friend and confidant. In recent years we giggled over men and marriage. She encouraged me when I was having a bad day. She listened to me when I needed an ear. She offered up occasional advice. I’m so grateful that I can say I knew her in recent years as a friend.
It would be remiss of me not to share one big story. I’ve been thinking all day about which story best memorializes such a beautiful soul and this is the one I want to remember her by, and I know she’d want you to know the message of it too.
Approximately 8 years ago I was attending college pre-med with the intention of going on to become a Doctor. As she did with all her grandkids, she encouraged and supported me in any way she could.
At that time, she needed a back operation, and she arranged with her doctor for me to stand next to the operating table and observe the surgery. They moved me right next to the table, so close I could’ve reached out and touched her. During the middle of the surgery, Dr. Pruvendra informed me that they’d be bringing her up out of the anesthesia just enough to ask her a few questions and test out the device they were implanting on her nerves. He said she wouldn’t feel any pain, and she also wouldn’t remember being awakened. And so it went as he said. After his series of questions to her, he told me this was my chance to ask my grandma any questions I wanted to know or to get any secrets out of her – to which she saucily replied, “I don’t have any secrets!”
Then Dr. Pruvendra asked me if I’d like to hear my Grandma sing. I responded with what was no doubt a nervous laugh, and he said, “Sing for us, Millie.” And she sure did. She did the most curious thing though… she sang the song “Jesus loves me” – but she changed the words to “Jesus loves YOU…”
“Jesus loves YOU, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves YOU. Yes, Jesus loves You. Yes, Jesus loves YOU, the Bible tells me so.”
At the end of the song, the Anesthesiologist piped up and said, “I doubt Jesus loves Dr. Pruvendra, he’s an athiest.”
To which my barely conscious grandmother replied, “Jesus loves you, even if you don’t love him back.”
It was a moment burned into my brain for all eternity. A moment she had no recollection of. The words just came from her heart and soul, “Jesus loves you, even if you don’t love him back.” Words that I’ve heard echoed throughout my heart many times in the years since. Those words, are something I think she’d want the world to know today.
On a day when I don’t understand God’s plan and when I don’t know how to deal with such mixed emotions – feelings of Joy that she’s with the Jesus she loved, mixed with sorrow at a life removed from us too unexpectedly, her faith brings me comfort. I hope she knows that she touched me with her love, and her words in that moment, have moved me for a lifetime.