My hero passed away on December 17. She was not a millionaire. She was not anyone famous. Yet she was the richest and most loved person I ever knew. Today people are striving to live more simple. To make their life count, but very few people do it well. My grandmother was one who did it extremely well. Raised during the depression, lived in a barn for a little while. On Christmas she would receive an orange. One orange. Married a man who went straight to WWII the day after their wedding. Did not hear from him for two years. Except for one letter and one telegram saying he was wounded. Lived in one house for about 70 years. Watched her husband die. Watched her daughter die. Watched her grandchildren suffer loss. I saw her cry, but it was short-lived because she wanted to smile. She seemed to always have a content smile on her face, especially when family was around. She never once complained about any of the crisis she faced. She only discussed them when asked. That is how I found out so much. Even though she experienced so much pain, she never criticized others for their feelings, no matter how trivial.
She woke up and went to work at four in the morning for many, many years. Why? She was a cook at a Lutheran School. She cooked for those kids by herself, completely from scratch every day. You talk to anyone who went to that school, and ask them what was the best thing about school? “Mrs. Betty’s cooking!” Her love came out in her cooking and every child felt it. I watched as kids would come back for seconds on vegetables! She would decorate the tables for the seasons just to make it extra special for those kids. In fact, the school is being let out early on Friday, just so families and teachers can attend her funeral. Simple Love.
Her life was dripping with love. She chose to see the goodness in people and would make them feel good about themselves when she was with them. You could not help leaving her without a gigantic smile on your face. She cooked every weekend for her family, not because she had to, but she desired to with all her heart. She was the glue that brought us together.
The other day, when I was crying, my son came up to me and said, “Mom, she is not dead, she is still alive just in a different place.” How profound. From the mouth of babes. So simple, yet so complex. I went in my room and cried, and then suddenly heard my grandmothers laughter. Her laugh was so wonderful. Full belly, full of jolly fun. This was a gift to remember and I realized she died perfectly. In her home, surrounded by what she knew for 70 years, being welcomed “home” by those who went before. All the while laughing. Laughing so hard she cried. Tears of joy. Then I smiled, and realized for the first time in her life she did something for herself.
You see, living simply is not about choosing to live out in the country living off the land. Not getting gifts, eating all natural. It is about how you love. My grandmother lived her life doing nothing for herself, but truly out of love for others and their well-being. This is rare, special. And as my mother said, “If only I could be one tenth the person she was.” Yes if only we all could.
I will miss you forever.