“The greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.”
She grew up in a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania and lived through the depression. Thankfully her story didn’t stop there.
As we joined together to celebrate her life, the pastor pointed out, that for a woman of her day, my Grandma Mary was a faith-filled adventurer. In the 84 years of her earthly life she was determined to invest in the invisible, to live beyond herself — tending to the hearts of people and cultivating a vibrant romance with Jesus.
The Yellow Piece of Paper
Unexpected tears began to flow, when the pastor handed out a yellow piece of paper. On it were the words of my grandma’s favorite scriptures.
We read the verses in unison together. I held the paper close, as if it held the answer to all of life. Perhaps it did.
I remembered her window seat piled high with cursive-written notes from her explorations in God’s Word. I was always intrigued by the way she spoke of Jesus, her visions of heaven, and excitement about prayer.
Her faith drew me into the mystery of a wild God who loved me.
That evening, as I held the words, her treasure, I whispered a silent prayer of thanks for a woman who was crazy enough to abide in the secret place and draw up her nourishment from the well of God’s Word. The power of her faithful devotion couldn’t be ignored. She planted a garden of truth and life everywhere she went, and only now was it beginning to sprout.
Let’s Walk Together
Then the pastor gave my grandpa time to tell stories about he and my grandma. He could have gone on for days. We laughed and cried at the spectacular way in which they loved each other for over 60 years.
What was their secret? I wondered.
On their honeymoon my grandpa recalled how she went with him on a manly fly-fishing escapade, how she crawled under barbed-wire with him to get a closer look at deer, and that she agreed to his crazy idea to sneak up on a herd of moose together.
My grandparents were intentional about doing life with each other.
I remember our visits to their house. Whether it was bedtime routines, watching TV, reading books, praying, deciding what to make for supper, or getting up close with nature, I noticed my grandparents did it with each other.
Their secret was unveiled that evening.
The story of their marriage confirmed a long romance, a never-ending desire to simply walk through life hand in hand, together. In doing so, their love multiplied and spread in ways they will never know.
An Endearing Presence
Lastly, the pastor gave Grandma’s four children an opportunity to share memories of their mother. Without hesitation, they each recalled the times she cheered them on, prayed with them, got down and played games with them, and tucked little notes of encouragement into their school bags.
As they grew older it didn’t change.
She perched herself on the kitchen counter talking to them while they did dishes, passed on perspective and counsel over the phone, and listened to their hearts with careful attention when they were anxious. In her they not only had a mother, but a welcoming embrace, a friendly companion, and a fountain of deep wisdom.
Above all, her children agreed, it was her endearing presence throughout their lives that drew them to Jesus, and guided them through their darkest times . . . and still does.
I was shaken by my grandma’s definition of success. It couldn’t be further from mine. I wanted the cute house, the flourishing career, and the picture-perfect family.
But what if I had it all wrong?
That evening, I was reminded again that leaving a legacy would never be as glamorous as I had hoped. It wasn’t a road paved with self-made success or applauded good deeds, but with the unpretentious ways of Jesus — a quiet, courageous resolve to do the messy, often invisible, work of giving generously of our time and love to Jesus and to people.