“But Gram, this isn’t how grandpa does it.” A 5-year-old boy sat on the bank of the river holding a stripped willow branch in his hand. His grandma smiled. Her eyes twinkled. They always twinkled. She gingerly knotted a hook to a string then tied it to the end if the switch. Still skeptical, the little boy gave his grandmother a sideways glance as he stuck the worm onto the hook and tossed it into the water.
That little boy was my husband so many years ago, and that dear grandma was one of the most amazing women I have ever had the privilege to know.
“But Gram, this isn’t how my daddy fishes.” Gram sat down next to him on the bank and stretched out her legs. In her mind she hoped beyond hope that this little five-year-old and his simple willow stick would hook a fish. It didn’t have to be big. Any old fish would do. “We’ll catch one, just you wait and see.” It wasn’t long before the boy felt a jerk. Gram was on her feet as quick as a flash cheering him on. The willow bent with the weight of the trout as the two dear friends lifted the string to the shore. Gram beamed with excitement. Sure enough, a stripped willow switch, a hook, a worm, and the faith and love of a grandmother was all that was needed that day to land a fish and secure a special memory in the mind of a small boy.
Twenty five years later that same grandmother sat on the floor next to her Steinway grand piano driving tractors across the carpet to a different five-year-old boy and his two younger brothers. The same twinkle in her eye, the same laughter filled the room. Fish caught (this time with a real pole) a few days before fried in the kitchen. Not only was Gram a master fisherman, she also cooked fish (and almost anything else) better than anyone in the world.
That was just a few short weeks ago.
Those easiest to love are the hardest to let go. As we celebrated her amazing life two days ago and I looked around at all the many, many faces that came because of the lives she touched, I was reminded once again of how lucky I am to have married into such a wonderful family and count myself among those that knew her and loved her. Sweet memories and the stories she’d share will forever be a part of me. One mentioned she was the closest to an angel you could ever find here on this earth. She truly was.
My dear boys. You are too young to fully understand. She was your playmate, your pen pal, your biggest fan. She was your friend, your dance partner, your coach. And now she is your guardian angel. She believes in you, she loves you so very much. Cherish your letters, savor those moments with her. Try not to forget because you had a special, unique blessing to have her in your life.
Every time you put someone else’s needs above your own, think of her.
When you send a thoughtful note, when you visit someone who needs a friend, when you call just to say hello, think of her.
When you whistle a happy tune, when you send a care package genuinely filled with care. When you treat a stranger as if an old friend.
When you hear a beautiful piano piece played, or laughter fills a room. When you eat a delicious meal or lick an ice cream cone or drink a tall glass of Ovaltine, Think of her.
When you reel in a whopper or tell a fish tail, she’s watching. She wouldn’t miss that for anything.
Her life was filled with service, her heart was filled with love. Her every deed was filled with kindness. She left behind a legacy unlike any other. Let’s try to follow in her steps. Let’s have that faith she shared 25 years ago with a little boy as he grasped a simple willow switch in his hands. Make her proud. Please remember those words she wrote to you time and time again, “Love you dearly, Gram J (your pen pal).”