WRITER’S CORNER: A grandma like no other

“I thought all grandmas were like mine.”

Grandma Spees at age 16 in 1944, the year she married Grandpa

This is what I told my mom one day not long after my Grandma Spees had been diagnosed with vascular dementia. For the past 14 years, Grandma and I struggled to understand one another, but our love for each other never wavered.

We laid my sweet grandma to rest today, but she’s been with Jesus since Good Friday. Those who knew Thelma Spees at any time during her 91 years on earth will remember her servant’s heart, gentle nature and self-deprecating sense of humor.

The Lysa TerKeurst book I read recently talks a lot about long suffering, and that’s something my grandma possessed. The first result that comes up on Google when I search for “long suffering” defines it as “having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people.” Kindness and patience are virtues I struggle to uphold, but I pray I’ll think of her more when I’m on the verge of losing my temper.

Decorating cookies with Grandma at age 3

Grandma was waiting outside the hospital’s delivery room when I was born in 1986, and she was never far out of reach from that day forward. My grandparents’ white ranch house on a quiet cul de sac in Keokuk, Iowa, was my second home. It’s where we would decorate cookies, hang wet laundry, pick produce from the garden, gather around the table for a home-cooked meal … I could go on and on.

Grandma teaching Sunday school; date unknown

The best days at that house usually ended in the living room. While Grandpa channel-surfed or read the paper, Grandma either worked on her latest quilting project or — on Saturday nights — I would help her prepare curriculum for the 3- and 4-year-old Sunday school class she ultimately taught for more than half a decade. Even when I was too old for her class, I would attend so I could “help.” (I’m not sure how much I actually assisted, but she loved having me there.) She cared for those children like they were her own. Years after she gave up teaching, we still have many pictures of Grandma’s students among our family photos.

I’m sure Grandma never fully realized just how special she was to her family and friends. It was amazing to see such a cross-section of people at her visitation and funeral. The pastor who led the service knew my grandparents for many years and wrote his message using Scriptures that were underlined or listed in the back of Grandma’s Bible. One of them is Romans 12:9-13 (he used NKJV):

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

My grandparents with their three kids — Trudy, Kathy and Larry (my dad)

As our family parted ways today, many of us surely wondered when we’ll see each other again. We’re scattered all over the country and only seem to gather for funerals these days. Although our lives have taken many different paths, I hope we’ll remember the love Grandma had for us and let that keep us close at heart.

Grandpa and Grandma, January 2004

Thank you for everything, Grandma. The lessons you quietly taught and the love you unselfishly gave are treasures we will carry always. We can’t wait to see you again.

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