She was 29. Younger than I am now. Two little girls and a life ahead of her.
Then polio knocked on the door of her body, entered unbidden, and left her in a hospital bed paralyzed from the waist down.
My grandmother suddenly faced a future very different than what she had imagined.
A pastor came and spoke in hushed tones. Then he shared powerful words that changed the course of her heart, “Frances,” he said, “You can choose to let this make you bitter or better.”
She chose better.
I don’t think she realized it at the time, but by choosing it for herself she chose it for the rest of us too.
My grandmother lived until the age of 74 with a twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her face.
I never heard her complain or speak an unkind word about anyone.
She ran a Christian bookstore with my Grandpa Hollie. People used to ask her where she found her joy…and she loved to tell them.
This Christmas it will be ten years since she slipped into eternity in her sleep.
Ten years–and I can still hear her voice. She whispers to me in life’s difficult moments, a hint of laughter around the edges, “Choose better, Holley,” she reminds me.
I learned from my grandmother that gratitude is a decision. It’s also a gift; it multiplies and spreads to those around us.
Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes.
This Thanksgiving when the food is on the table and plates are passed around I know I’ll feel full before we ever take the first bite–overflowing with thankfulness for a woman who made a choice long ago that still nourishes our family today.
Thank you, Nana, for choosing better.
God, give us the courage to do the same.
Update: I’m with my family today and I carried the laptop out to the breakfast table to surprise them with this story. We gathered around and looked into the glow, each of us lost in our memories. Then my grandfather said, “Well, you know Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday–that’s when they told her she could come home from the hospital for good.”
My Mom snatched a tattered piece of paper from a drawer titled “What Thansgiving Means to Me” written by my Nana. In it she tells the same story I do here and expresses her gratitude. Then she closes with the beautiful sentence below. I pray her words bring joy to your heart and family just as they have ours…
“May we always remember to be grateful for today, to forget yesterday, and leave the tomorrows for God to give as He sees fit.”
p.s. My much-loved Grandpa Hollie (in these photos) is having surgery tomorrow. Will you please pray for him?
Who are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?