Grandma Had Love

We spend much of our lives striving, pursuing. Good grades. A good school. Someone to spend our lives with.

In all that busy striving and pursuing, time slips past.

And when our time here is over, if we were blessed with a family or friends, someone may say a few words about all that.

What will they say?

Living with the end in mind

The idea of writing your own obituary or eulogy may seem trite—an overused technique from personal development seminars. But when you go to an actual funeral or two, you realize what a good exercise it is.

It’s a stunning experience, really, listening to a life summed up. All those years—the ups and downs, the victories and defeats, the many conversations and decisions, the times you let people down or got things right. It’s fascinating to hear what stood out to the person at the microphone.

I’ve been thinking about that since my mother-in-law’s funeral, which took place a few weeks ago. I think she would have been pleased about what was said.

After my wife gave a beautiful, moving tribute, each of our kids got up to say a few words they had prepared. I was very proud of them for writing what they did and being willing to speak at the funeral.

In their own way, they all spoke about their grandma’s love and generosity. Family was an important priority for her, and by her actions they each knew that was true.

The greatest of these

Our 14-year-old remembered her many words of encouragement and warm hugs. He also remembered her patience, even when he and his brother and cousin played “barbarian stairs” at her house, sliding down her staircase face-first, sometimes piled on top of each other.

“But Grandma never yelled,” he said. “Not once.”

While their grandmother cared about the wear and tear on her carpeting perhaps more than most, often even covering the most heavily trafficked parts with paper, she never complained about our kids’ roughhousing.

Our son said he had many fond memories of hearing his grandmother’s stories at the dinner table—stories about growing up during the Depression and World War II.

Then he read from 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears… And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

After finishing those verses, he paused, looked up, and closed with three simple, powerful words: “Grandma had love.”

Not what, but how

I’ve replayed his ending in my mind countless times since then, and each time it brings me to tears.

What better way could someone’s life be summed up?

Those sentiments seem especially appropriate now, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. After all, God’s decision to send Jesus to us was an act of supreme love.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

And love was central to Jesus’ teaching.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another. – John 13:34-35

So, in the midst of our busy preparations—the decorating and cooking and shopping and such—let’s remember that what we do is far less important than how.

Let’s love one another well this holy season, and always.

And when the day comes that we breathe our last, may it be said of us that we had love.

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15 Responses to Grandma Had Love

  1. J December 24, 2017 at 9:43 AM #

    Matt, Thanx for sharing.

    My Grandma still lives, both in heaven and in all of our hearts.
    She actually became “Great Grandma” by the time her earthly path had been walked.
    Anytime family gathers, “Great Grandma stories” are at least 50% of the remembrances.
    There are “Great Depression stories”, “moon-shining stories”, “secretly giving money to us behind Great Grandpa’s back stories”, “Great Grandma foibles”, “Great Grandma cookies”, “Great Grandma biscuits”, “Great Grandma green beans w/ham & lard”, etc, etc.

    To this day, she is still the linchpin that binds all of the cousins together.
    We can’t wait to see her again!
    Like your Grandma, she had love.

  2. Nancy Dahl December 20, 2017 at 7:41 PM #

    It was so great to hear what your 14 year old eulogized! I remember him when he was a little shy guy in Sunday school!
    Our happiest days are those when our children begin to bear the fruit of our highest hopes and prayers for them.
    Thanking God for your family testimony in the world,
    Nancy Dahl

    • Matt Bell December 21, 2017 at 1:02 PM #

      Amen to all of that, Nancy. Love what you said about the joy of seeing one’s kids bearing “the fruit of our highest hopes and prayers.”

      Merry Christmas.

  3. John Onufrock December 19, 2017 at 5:06 PM #

    Thanks, Matt. I am sorry for the loss your family has experienced. The article hit 2 heartstrings, first the memory of my mom and how she loved her grandkids, even when they were a challenge. And second, a challenge to us grandparents to “have love”. God bless. John O.

    • Matt Bell December 19, 2017 at 9:03 PM #

      Thanks, John. Knowing you, I’d say your grandkids (and kids!) are mightily blessed. Merry Christmas.

  4. Skip Galanes December 19, 2017 at 2:57 PM #

    Thank you, Matt, for recounting that your mother-in-law’s life mattered in so many ways. The connection back to Christmas and Jesus’ teaching for us to love one another is a great reminder for us all.

    • Matt Bell December 19, 2017 at 9:00 PM #

      Appreciate the feedback, Skip. And it’s good to see a couple of friends from my Good $ense days here!

  5. Craig December 19, 2017 at 2:33 PM #

    Beautifully written, Matt.
    Reminds me of Jude…

    • Matt Bell December 19, 2017 at 8:57 PM #

      Thanks, Craig. Hope you guys have a great Christmas!

  6. Tom Vislisel December 19, 2017 at 1:23 PM #

    Dear Matt,

    Thank You! Very moving! How beautiful and honoring to your mother in law and your family. Your son summed it up so well.

    Merry Christmas,


    • Matt Bell December 19, 2017 at 8:55 PM #

      Merry Christmas to you, too, Tom.

  7. McLain Tallungan December 19, 2017 at 1:08 PM #

    Awesome…. thanks for the reminder brother & for your family’s example! Blessings to you all!

    • Matt Bell December 19, 2017 at 8:53 PM #

      Blessings to you as well, McLain. Hope you guys have a great Christmas.

  8. Mark December 19, 2017 at 12:15 PM #

    Wow! Such a powerful post. My heart is open and ready to love those around me. Thanks for this perspective of the richness of love…

    • Matt Bell December 19, 2017 at 8:52 PM #

      Appreciate the feedback, Mark!

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