Still Teaching Me

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Grandma reading with great grandson Gabe, June, 2016.

Grandma was a teacher. Even though she’s been home with Jesus for a year- as we count time- Grandma is still teaching me. But not just me.

Grandma had lots of students.

Decade after decade after decade-33 years, I think- she taught first and second grade. She didn’t stop teaching when her own kids came. Grandma kept teaching right on through the raising of the five she bore plus the seven more that came when she married my widower Grandpa.

Grandma didn’t stop teaching when she retired from the Portage School District. She kept right on teaching her beloved Sunday school kids, up to her last few months. She taught those kids Adam and Ahab, Joshua and Jacob, Elijah and Deborah and David. And learning faith from Grandma means those lessons won’t soon be forgotten.

Grandma also taught the ladies she she affectionately called her “jail girls.”  Somehow Grandma found a righteous way into the prison system after she left the schools. How many girls learned real mother love and true life skills from Grandma, we’ll never know.

Grandma was always ready with a lesson.

One Saturday two months or so before Grandma passed, I happened to be there when one of her jail girls called. Grandma listened a while, nodding now, furrowing her brow then. And the lesson was ready:

Happiness comes from giving, she assured one who was consumed with what she was not getting.

Grandma was a teacher and grandma was a giver.

On her last Mother’s Day she explained to her Sunday school class, “Kids, Elaine is not well. Her body has a problem that will not get better. Ms. Betty will teach you now. I know you will listen well to her just like you listened to me.”
Grandma was still teaching then, lessons in grace and faith. And not just to her third graders.

 

Grandma taught lots of lessons.

 

And even though she’s been gone for a year, the lessons remain. Lessons like these:

Thank. I remember when I helped her into the tub last summer for one of her last beloved soaks in the big old tub. Maybe, in ignorance and haste, we even got her stoma gear wet and had to unpeel and reseal and it was a bother. But Grandma just said,

That’s great. Thank you. Hallelujah!- This feels so good. 

Grandma taught me gratitude.

Fight. It was the fight of her life, facing her death with strong, living faith, but Grandma was not fearful. George Washington said as he lay dying, I die hard, but I’m not afraid to go.

Grandma said the same thing, in her own way. When we’d ask her to rate her pain, she said,

I’m not in a pleasant place for pain. 

And she fought on, with her sword of the spirit and helmet of salvation. Strong in her faith, Grandma was taught me how to fight the good fight.

Joy. Grandma was- and still is, I’m sure- a merry, exuberant soul. I recited a verse last summer I’d been memorizing about being sealed for the day of redemption. Grandma fist pumped exultantly and said,

That’s me. I’m sealed.

Or when she told me that joke about the wife who told her husband, I’d like something that’s shiny medal and goes 0-150 in seconds. Grandma paused, then grinned. 

So her husband bought her a brand new scale. For sure, Grandma taught me to laugh.

IMG_4654Pray. It seemed such a strange inversion for a dying grandma to be praying for a healthy granddaughter. But she did. How she did! Before I left on my two hour ride home she’d pray travel mercies for me.

I remember, too, how she asked me to pray for her as she met with a troubled young soul weeks before she died.

Pray Lacy will see God’s love.

And Grandma taught me to pray.

Read. Not that I needed too much instruction here. But she also helped teach my son Gabe to read. To sound out words and think about them as he did. Last summer, while reading about a funny goat named King Puck, she corrected,

“Disappear” not “desire,” Gabe. 

And while her library shelves overflowed with books of all sorts, there was one she read by far the most. Every morning she’d read the next chapter, from the drawer in the kitchen table the Amish built special for that book. Then in bed at night, she’d open it again for more. Grandma taught me to crave that living Word.

Give. Even in the last months, Grandma kept a stash of candy in the pantry. In the last months an aunt would fill it up, but even before those days, when there no solid food would stay in Grandma’s stomach, Grandma made sure the jars were filled up.
That was nothing new. One of  my earliest memories of she and Grandpa from 35 years ago was how they’d dole out baggies of M&M’s- maybe to help keep us quiet in the pew. In M&M baggies and from ever-full candy jars, Grandma taught me to to give.

Sing. How Grandma loved to sing! So they came. Her family came Sunday night after Sunday night in Grandma’s last summer to sing. Uncle Nathan brought a box of hymnals and cousins and aunts and uncles would sing hymns. Grandma loved them all.

But one of her favorites was Trust And Obey. Her choice- one of Grandma’s funeral songs- is still teaching me.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, What a glory He sheds on our way!

While we do His good will, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way

To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet. Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.

What He says we will do, where He sends we will go; Never fear, only trust and obey.

The book she loved to read the most- the book that taught her to thank and fight and rejoice and give- has in it this line: To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

So while Grandma is now happy in fellowship sweet, her lessons are still teaching me.

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