A Real Life Legacy-Maker
She’s 94 years old today. I just got off the phone with her and I still feel it: that undeniable sense of genuine love my grandma has for everyone she meets. And that faith! Goodness gracious, there’s no doubt about it: she truly believes in the Jesus she claims to believe in. It’s real in her.
I remember after my husband met her 16 years ago, he said that when he was hugging her goodbye, she prayed for him, and “when she prayed it felt like there was liquid love being poured all over me from head to foot.” He said the sensation was so strong that he opened his eyes to doublecheck that there wasn’t literally someone pouring liquid on him.
There is something special about her. And something special about her prayers.
She’s always been that way— as long as I can remember. We don’t even live in the same state anymore, so I hardly ever see her nowadays (and honestly I don’t even call her near as often as I ought to), but still— every time I get off the phone with her or leave her presence, I just feel… loved.
I am noticing her age is catching up with her, though. Ever since her stroke 3 1/2 years ago, despite the fact that her overall health is otherwise great, she has been just a tad different than she used to be. Her heart and faith and love are fully in tact, that’s for sure, but she moves slower, she talks slower, and it’s definitely harder for her to remember certain words. I try to give her lots of space to recall things on her own (even if I know exactly what she’s trying to say), because she feels so satisfied when she is able to do so. It sure is fulfilling to watch her give her brain a workout and remember past people, events, and even simple words that get tricky for her.
But I’ve got to say: I have found one sure-fire way to get her to jabber on with as clear a memory as she can muster: just ask her about the love of her life, my grandpa Bob. When he passed away, they had been married almost 55 years. That was 16 years ago, but you’d think it was just a week ago the way she still talks about him. She misses him something fierce.
Today, when I asked her about dancing— “Do you ever dance anymore, Grandma?” I asked, knowing she has loved dancing her entire life— she answered exuberantly: “Oh yes I do, honey! How did you know?!” And then she told me a little story about the first time my grandpa took her out dancing:
“In north Portland, there were all the big bands that would come to this big hall and we would go there and dance together when we were dating. The first dance Bob invited me to, I wore a long pink dress and we went out to dinner for a little while and then, as we were nearing the dance floor, he picked me up by the waist and held me until we got down to the dance floor. “What are you doing?!” I said. Oh, my, that was wonderful! I just loved that,” she recalled, laughing with a clear, delighted twinkle in her voice.
When I asked her if they kissed each other that night, she couldn’t quite remember. But she did tell me this: “The first kiss that I remember was when Bob kissed me through the front door— through the screen!” she laughed. “He was so funny, that Bob. Crazy, crazy, crazy!”
“I loved him, I loved him, I loved him,” she declared.
And I’ll tell you one more fun fact about her and my grandpa: Would you like to know how he proposed to her? Via his dad. While he was halfway across the world.
Let me explain. You see, after my grandma and grandpa had begun dating, my grandpa joined the Army Air Corps. It was during World War II, and he had already been serving a couple of years. When he was stationed in Iwo Jima, it seems that he started getting worried that perhaps some other young suitor might come long and steal the heart of his “darling Nancy.” So Bob, with still several more months left before he was set to return to the States, asked his father to go over to Nancy’s house and propose to her. So one day Bob’s dad came over to visit his son’s girlfriend, got down on one knee, and asked her “Will you marry my son?” At first wondering what in the world was going on, she finally realized that this was indeed a legitimate marriage proposal when he presented to her a few different ring choices and asked her which one she wanted.
After she said “yes” and picked out a ring, she wrote to my grandpa and told him “Yes, I will marry you!” A couple months after he returned, they got married.
And, as she and I chatted on the phone today, she told me this little tidbit I hadn’t heard before: “When we got married, the priest didn’t call us to kiss each other during the ceremony. I think maybe they didn’t do that back then or something? So after we walked out of the church I looked at Bob and said “Well aren’t you going to kiss me, Bob?!” So he did! And do you know what? I think he liked it,” she giggled.
That’s always how she talks about him— like a giddy lovestruck schoolgirl. The way she describes him and their times together, you’d think their wedding was just a week or two ago. You would never know the two of them had 6 children together, 19 grandchildren, and somewhere around 70 great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren (to date). She’s still so in love with him.
A few years ago she told me this: “I honestly can’t remember not enjoying being married to Bob. He was the man God had for me… I had a wonderful marriage with that young man… He was THE ONE that I REEEEEEALLY loved!” she declared.
Once, a couple years ago, when Grandma still lived in her home (she’s in a nursing facility now), she fell asleep with chest pains and didn’t tell a soul. She was so excited as she closed her eyes that night because she was “just sure” she was going to wake up in heaven and “get to see Bob and Jesus.” When she woke up in her earthly bed the next morning, alive as can be, she was disappointed. She had wanted to “go home” to be with her Savior and her long lost Love that night. “But that’s okay,” she recovered in her usual, ever-optimistic way, “God must have something else for me here,” she reasoned. So she got out of bed as usual, prayed for her almost 100 extended family members, made breakfast, and went about her day.
That’s my grandma. That’s the woman who has prayed for her family every single day of her adult life. That’s the woman who always seems to have hope; the woman who always seems to believe the best in people; the woman who is never shy about declaring her faith.
I remember, more than a couple decades ago, when I learned that one of our extended family members was living a dangerous, drug-addicted lifestyle, I asked her what she thought about that whole situation. “Oh, honey,” she said. “This is just the chapter he’s in right now. We’re all on a journey in life and his book isn’t finished yet. He’s just at a hard chapter in his life right now, that’s it. There is always hope for change,” she said. “We just need to keep praying for him.” She honestly didn’t seem a bit worried. She was totally at peace and it was clear that she genuinely believed what she had just told me.
I’ll never forget that lesson. I try to keep it in mind when I start feeling discouraged or hopeless or frustrated— either with myself or with my loved ones. “This is just one chapter in life right now,” I remind myself. “The book isn’t finished yet.”
This dear woman. She hasn’t even passed from this world to the next yet, but already it is clear: she is leaving an incredible legacy of love, faith, prayer and hope to me and to our entire extended family. What a gift. A priceless, measureless gift.
I am honored to call her my grandma.
Happy Birthday, you amazing young woman.
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What about you?
Who has made a huge, positive impact on you? What is the legacy you hope to leave some day?
Please share your journey in the comment section below.