My Grandma passed away on March 27, 2022. She was an amazing lady who loved Jesus and loved people. Below is a copy of the remarks I gave at her funeral on April 8, 2022. I understand more of the grace and faithfulness of Jesus today because of her.
The best thing I can say to you this afternoon is this: live your life (whatever time you have left) in a way that makes it as easy for someone to write your eulogy, as Grandma did for me.
It was easy to think of memories and impactful ways Grandma has touched our lives. It was hard having to leave some things out. So as we’ve already been doing so far today, keep honoring Grandma by sharing your memories of her.
For those in the family, you may remember that Grandma used to write regular emails to the family back from about 2005 to 2009. She’d share what her and Grandpa were up to and what was happening with the rest of the family. She worried that they were too boring, but those emails are a treasure and they help remind us what a treasure we have in our memories of Grandma.
After Grandma passed away, I remembered that I had kept most of her emails from over that 5-year span. There may have been a tear or two as I laid in bed that night reading through them.
While I cried while reading them, there were many spots I also just laughed as I read, including these two:
Grandma wrote, “Got my windows washed this last week, but 2 different times the birds made a deposit since. Good thing I can reach from the inside. I’m wondering if there’s diarrhea going around in the bird community!!!!!!!!!!!”
Grandma wrote again, “We had quite an experience with “mouses” the other day. We were cleaning the garage, had everything moved out, I decided I should move this one cupboard right by the deepfreeze. When I did, 6 mice ran under the deepfreeze. If any of you heard a SHRILL SCREAM that day it was me. Gramps came, got the shovel. As I was screaming, one by one they came out and he clubbed it. Only one got out the door. Then I started vacuuming, saw another one and that one went up the vacuum!!!”
As I read through her emails, I think the main themes that most of us would remember about Grandma really shine brightly through her emails. The main thought I had as I read through them and thought about Grandma and our memories of her was this: there is tremendous beauty in a simple, faithful life like the one Grandma lived. There is tremendous and profound beauty to the way she simply loved her family, maintained so many friendships, and faithfully followed Jesus. We don’t honor Grandma because of any major inventions, any high and significant positions she held, or anything that made major headlines in the newspaper. We honor her and remember her because she did the regular, little, meaningful things so well. And she did them so well that now to us those things are the big, exceptional things.
One of Grandma’s favorite things was of course her garden and her flowers. Actually, gardening is the perfect illustration for the kind of life Grandma lived. She lived a life that cared for others and served them in order to help them grow. She tended her garden like she tended her family: with a lot of time, attention, thoughtfulness, love, and care.
Grandma’s love language definitely had to be quality time. Grandma just loved having everyone together. Just having all the family together had to be one of her favorite things. Listen to this email after Christmas 2005, which as you’ll hear was the first Christmas we had at the Community Center in Danube instead of Grandma and Grandpa’s house, which was somewhat controversial among us grandkids apparently.
Hello!!! Our house is quiet again, table made smaller again, dishes put away, only all the good memories of Christmas 2005 are left. Our first year to have Christmas at the Community Center, kinda hard to accept, but we know time changes things. The census tells us about half liked it at the hall–the others (grandkids) say go back to Gramp and Gram’s house. I reserved the hall for next year with a question mark. I wish we could have a Saturday, but they are all taken. We will just leave it to God. As I think back my only regret is that there just wasn’t enough time to spend one on one with each of you. We’ll have to make up for that during the year!!!!
And they would make up for it every year! They were constantly on the go. Constantly checking in on their kids. Always going to grandkids’ sporting events, music concerts, or other activities. Constantly stopping in to visit friends they had met on some trip somewhere. Visiting cousins they thought it had been too long since they last saw them. Always going to a friends house to play cards or having friends over to play cards at their house.
This one email she wrote made me tired just reading it. Listen to this week they had, which was actually pretty typical for a long stretch for them:
Wed. night is pie and ice cream block party at church, Friday night is Relay for Life, Tuesday night we are invited to play cards, Friday afternoon some Az. friends from SD are stopping for coffee, Saturday afternoon is a birthday party for Jac and Nykki’s girls at her parents., and then Sunday is the Lange reunion up at Sibley park. Whoever said retired people don’t have anything to do!!!!
She cultivated relationships just as much as she did flowers or vegetables in her garden. She was intentional in cultivating relationships and community in a way our world today desperately needs more of. She just genuinely loved people.
But the source of this deep love for people that Grandma had was definitely her relationship with Jesus. She loved Jesus, and because she loved Jesus she loved her neighbor. In one email, Grandma wrote, “Our ecumenical bible study in Danube folded after many years, so I started going to one in Renville. I have that to go to tomorrow. I just missed it so much – just need it to stay focused on who I am and where I am in the eyes of our Lord.”
Grandma walked closely with Jesus. Next weekend we’ll be celebrating Easter and celebrating the truth that Jesus really lived a perfect life, he really died on the cross, and he really rose again from the grave so that our sin might be forgiven and that we might be at peace with God if we would just believe. She believed that because of Jesus’ resurrection, she too could have the full assurance of her own resurrection. Grandma believed this and she wanted us to believe it too. And if hearing that stirs up any questions in you about your own faith and what it means to believe in and walk with Jesus like Grandma did, I’m happy to talk with anyone more later.
She would close each email with something about faith. She would write things like:
- Remember, with Jesus, the best is yet to come
- Remember God loves you and we love you wherever we are!
- Trust in the Lord always!
- God is only a prayer away!
At one of her Bible studies one time, their group was supposed to write out their own version of Psalm 23. This is what she wrote:
The Lord is our Co-pilot
We shall travel in safety.
He gives us quiet rest at night.
Each morning he leads us on.
With His Holy Spirit within us,
We are guided and protected for His sake.
Even tho the roads may be treacherous,
We will know what to do,
For He is there directing us,
Comforting us with His presence.
He warns us of problems ahead,
And shows us the detours to take.
Surely we are blest to be able to travel
And enjoy this beautiful land he has given us.
Grandma’s love was a picture of Jesus’ grace to each of us. I remember one time a bunch of us cousins were out playing in the grove by Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Of course, we had to walk through the field, or along the field road to get there. When we came back, I walked right into her house without taking my shoes off and tracked mud all into the living room. My mom and maybe a few aunts got me out of there pretty quickly but I left some serious mud tracks in her carpet. Later that day or the next day, Grandma called me. And she said, “I just wanted you to know that all the mud came out of the carpet. But even if it didn’t, I’d love you anyway.”
She was something special.
The last thing I got to tell Grandma was that she was the first person that I remember ever telling me that they were praying for me. And so I thanked her for her lifetime of prayer.
Her love for Grandpa was of course one of the landmarks of her life. During one of Grandpa’s surgeries when Grandpa was in the hospital and not doing well, Marie and I were visiting and she said to us, “He’s my best friend.”
One of my favorite ways she ended one of her emails was just a simple good-bye. She simply wrote, “Gramps is waiting for me to play cards, so I better go. Let’s keep Jesus in our hearts. Love and prayers, Dad and Mom, Gramps and Gram.”
When it got hard for her to talk at the end, I like to think that’s what she was trying to tell us. “Gramps is waiting for me to play cards, so I better go. Let’s keep Jesus in our hearts.”
There is tremendous beauty in a simple, faithful life like the one Grandma lived.