Just recently I was at a craft show with my wife and little girls and saw something and thought, “Grandma would love that; I bet she could make something like that.”
Then I remembered. Grandma is gone.
She died more than a month before this craft show.
To be honest, I doubt she would have liked it much…to many people, too high of prices and well it would have required her traveling and she always liked to be home before dark. To be even more honest, I was not entirely overjoyed to be there myself. I hate crowds and the such, but my wife loves it and it was my gift to her that we go to something she really loves and I keep (most) of my smart ass comments to myself.
In the midst of the people and rows of booths with people selling their wares was an “antiques” set up. It was amazing how many things inside that booth I knew of and had played with or used just because of Grandma.
I’ve said this before, but Grandma was “Pintrest” before there was ever the idea of the internet. Anyone who spent any time in her house knew that; from the old rake head that hung in the kitchen holding cooking spoons and ladles to the clothespin creations that hung on the wall.
As a child I remember playing with empty spools of thread that could be blocks to build a wall or a fence. Adding a bent paper clip could transform them into a bailer for the toy tractor.
At Christmas one of the first decorations out was recycled baby food glass jars stacked into a tree form with individual characters from the Nativity scene inside them.
In Grandma’s garage was the overflow of all the crafts and creations; including a rooster made from dried beans, seeds and corn kernels. That was made at one of the many vacation Bible schools grandma taught at.
There were many nice things said about Grandma at her funeral service. Yet I think one of the most important messages of her life was missed. They talked of her love for God, her love for her family and devotion to community.
Her gift of creating and crafting was mentioned, but to me that was Grandma.
Even before the funeral this was what everyone seemed to talk about. The family that gathered by her bedside in the hospital each had a story about what had been given to them.
After she passed, I was sitting in my parent’s home when the phone rang. It was one of my mom’s friends from her school days. Someone she had not seen in years. He called to offer his condolences and share a story about how when he was growing up it was Velma Spain who he remembers loving on him. His classmate’s mother would come over to the house where he and his family had little. She would bring extra food or supplies when she had them to spare, or even perhaps when she didn’t have them to spare. But of all her generosity he told mom a story of the time grandma brought him and his siblings their own gifts. They didn’t get gifts that often, but grandma had made them each a pig; carved from soap. He said he still had his. It was a simple gesture, but one that decades later still held such significance.
At the visitation service, I sat and watched much of Dade County Missouri pass through the small chapel. I shook hands with people who I knew growing up. I saw family I hadn’t seen in years. We talked, sometimes laughing, sometimes holding back tears. However time and time again the thing that people wanted me to know about my grandma was what she had given them.
My Kindergarten (and second grade) teacher, Mrs. Reeves, came up to see me. She is much shorter than I ever remember her being, but she gave me a hug and asked how I had been. Mrs. Reeves told me she remembers Grandma being there for our school events, but she also remembers Grandma giving her daughter a homemade doll.
As we went through grandma’s things there were so many examples of her knack to create. I looked at so many of the items that once hung on the walls of her home or apartment and began to realize that she had been able to find the beauty in almost anything.
Nothing was wasted; almost everything that had been used found a new use in Grandma’s hands.
What a lesson this is to me. How often in life do we look on situations or people and see only what’s left. We see the outside…the empty spool of thread…and fail to see the potential.
We see the circumstances that look broken and useless and just like the head of a broken rake, which is useless for what we thought it was good for, and we want to give up. How many times are we missing out on something greater? I dare say Grandma’s spoon-holding rake lasted far longer than any garden rake every purchased for that purpose. Grandma didn’t throw it away, she found that rake’s true purpose.
That is the message of Grandma’s life that I think I’ll remember the most. She found the extraordinary uses for the most ordinary items. And she gave. She didn’t just give things, she gave of herself.
She gave me so much and even though she is gone from this earth, her gifts are still giving. She gave me my first musical instrument (that I can remember), a harmonica, and in turn my love of music. She gave me a stern talking to from time to time; the hard truth that I needed to hear without any sugar coating that still help me remember to stay grounded. She gave me a license to create and explore with her; cultivating a curiosity and drive that stays with me today.
Grandma is gone, but her life is always going to be with me and I hope that I can be the person that gives and sees the extraordinary in everyone and every situation.