My Grandmother grew up in rural Minnesota, one of twelve children, on a farm. She was unable to complete grammar school, as her assistance was required to support the needs of the family unit. Years later, she went on to own and operate a successful ice cream and sandwich shop in Michigan. Cooking was one of my Grandmother’s many love languages. Much later in life, I recall her making pots of chicken and dumplings as well as pies for a local senior community center. Through this service, she gave of herself to complete strangers and invested her gifts back to the community in which she lived.
My Grandmother had four children of her own with my Grandfather. The youngest child fell into the dark world of drugs and trafficking as a young adult. While at some point he made the wise decision to exit both participation of taking drugs as well as the lifestyle, the decision proved too late. Through the trials and tribulations, the disappointments and frankly, the danger he brought to the entire family, my Grandmother’s love of her son was unwaivering. My uncle left this planet at the young age of 22. My Grandmother never fully recovered this loss and was always very clear in stating that a mother should never have to bury a child. This pain, however, did not close her heart; instead she opened her home to my uncle’s friend who was also trying to turn his life around and filled his bucket with her love.
At the end of my Grandmother’s life we spend a very special day walking through her beloved hot springs pool where she shared that my Grandfather, who had passed twenty years earlier, was the absolute love of her life. I learned after her passing that at some points in their marriage, he had quite a temper, gambling problems which at one point resulted in an eviction letter posted on their front door, and had disrespected their vows. The Grandfather I knew was far removed from those days, kind, gentle and easy to love but I only knew that version of him because somehow my Grandmother’s love for him transcended all.
This incredible woman had the capacity to love whether we made it easy or difficult, despite choices she may or may not agree with, and even if she didn’t know you. Her expression of love was sometimes silently conveyed through cooking, painting or prayer, sometimes through a hug or the simple touch of her hand, sometimes through singing, a listening ear or an encouraging word. Her love was a constant example, amplified through her character, and while she has now been gone over twenty years, she still speaks to me.
So what have I learned from the beauty that was my Grandmother?
- Love is giving of oneself without expectation of anything in return
- Love can be expressed in a myriad of ways
- Love does not require the presence of two parties
- Love does not condemn nor does it require endorsement
- Love looks past actions, mistakes or failures and focuses on the core
- Loves does not have to be returned in order to endure
- Love fills the giver as much (and sometimes more) than the receiver