My Grandma, Mabel Winkler, passed away last Wednesday, June 16. She was 97 years old and lived a very full, healthy life. She leaves behind my aunt, fourteen grandchildren, thirty-one great-grandchildren and one great-great grand child. Below is a tribute to a live lived well:
Our Grandma was what you would call the All American Grandma because she was exactly what you envision when you think of the word Grandma.
She was sweeter than sweet. Everyone that met her said so. She always had a compliment or a kind word for you. Always. I never visited her when she didn’t have something positive and uplifting to say to me.
Grandma knew how to make you feel welcomed and it usually involved some kind of fresh baked goody. She knew that chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven or freshly made Rice Krispy treats instantly made the world a better place. Grandma was quick to let you know that they hadn't turned out quite right this time—that something must be wrong with her oven. Nevertheless, they always tasted perfect.
Thanksgiving just didn't happen without my Grandma. She started the two traditions that have made Thanksgiving on my side of the family what it is today: butterhorn rolls and homemade noodles. To this day I don't think either I or my four siblings have ever missed this holiday get-together with my side of the family. I really think it has to do with these two food items. Nobody else's thanksgiving dinners can compare. Nope, no-one's.
In a world that is fast paced and in a hurry, Grandma wasn't. You never felt like you were an interruption. She always had time for you. She was always available to be called on at a moment's notice for last minute sleep-overs or just to spend the evening together. She was never too busy for a game of cards or checkers. And somehow she never won any of the games! I'm pretty sure that was on purpose.
Grandma always had a smile for you. Always. And if I try I can still hear her laugh. It was a quiet and gentle chuckle, just like her.
She was a classy lady. She cared enough about her appearance to take time to look nice, yet didn’t overly fuss over herself.
She was very independent and determined. In her seventies and eighties, she rode the bus all over town to get where she needed to go. Staunchly loyal to her Democratic roots, she had an opinion about every election and was determined to cast her vote.
And wow. Did she have a servant’s heart. You could always find her in the kitchen at family get togethers. She sacrificially did all the jobs that no one wanted to do, like scrub the dishes at the kitchen sink while everyone else talked and played. My Grandma was eighty-two when Eric and I got married. Yet she stayed at my reception and helped clean up everything until one o'clock in the morning.
Grandma grew up going to church and went for all of her married life until my Grandpa got too sick to go. Since she couldn't drive, she couldn't go unless someone offered to take her. For most of her later life, she watched church service on TV on Sunday mornings. In many of my conversations with her, she often mentioned 'the good Lord' and she showed me her tried and true Bible on more than one occasion.
Now, Grandma could have her angry moments. Such as the time she threw a pie in Grandpa’s face when he came home late on his birthday. However, these moments were few and far between and out of character for her. Which is probably why the ‘pie story’ has been told and retold a million times because it is so hard to imagine her doing such a thing, making it all the more funnier.
Most comforting about Grandma was that she was always there. Content to not be the life of the party, she was always there in the background watching. She loved watching and being around her grandkids and great grand kids more than anything else in the world.
All of these qualities we see in Grandma are such comforting, refreshing qualities because they are the same qualities that we see in God’s son, Jesus. Just as Grandma sat in the background and was always there, He too sits in the background of our life—forever there--waiting for us to choose Him. He is not overbearing. He is not demanding. He is quietly waiting for you to come to Him. Just like Grandma, He lived a sacrificial life on this earth. He came and died a brutal life on the cross, shedding his blood for our sins so that we could have everlasting life with Him.
Just like Grandma and her pie throwing moment, we all have our moments of sin, too. It might not be anger but it might be pride, jealousy, impatience... You name it. We all struggle with sin because we are all part of this fallen world. But God gave us a way out. We can confess those sins to God and trust our lives with Jesus.
There is a Bible verse that I feel completely describes Grandma’s life. Even though this verse is instruction to wives in how to win over their unbelieving husbands, I believe that it sums up how Grandma lived her life before us. It’s 1 Peter 3:1-4:
‘Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.’
Grandma never had to say a word about Jesus for us to know that she had Jesus within her. Her pure conduct and the beauty of her gentle and quiet spirit said it all. Her calming and quiet spirit was never anxious or fretful about dying because she knew where she was going. She was ready for heaven where she could worship God and do that which we were all created to do. My hope for each of us is that we too would reflect on Grandma’s life and ask ourselves if we too have that same confident, peaceful assurance that she had.