Last night at 9:35 P.M. as my husband and I had just gotten finished saying our bedtime prayers together, I got a call saying that my beloved grandmother had passed away. While the news was not unexpected, I was still immediately flooded with grief and emotion, but at the same time, I felt an intense rush of gratitude for the legacy that this woman has left all of us.
My grandparents first moved the street over from my mom’s house when I was about ten, and I was at first shy around her and my grandpa, just as I was shy around most adults back then. I had only seen them a few times up until that point, and my grandpa always “tweaked” off my nose when they used to come visit, and I was worried that I would be left nose-less forever (even though I must have known somewhere deep in my brain that that was irrational). I don’t remember much about them actually moving in, but I clearly remember what happened the following Sunday:
My mom, wanting my siblings and I to form a closer bond with our grandparents (especially now that they lived so close), told us to cut through the neighbor’s backyard and walk up the street to my grandparents’ house after dinner and see if they wanted to play card games with us. My mom then proceeded to tell us how much her parents loved playing card games and how she was sure they would be beyond thrilled if we came over and asked to play a game or two.
Although a bit hesitant, my sister Hannah and I presented ourselves at their door soon after her suggestion and were enthusiastically taken up on our offer to learn some of our grandparents’ favorite games.
What followed would become one of the most cherished traditions of my life growing up—from that point on, each and every Sunday that we were in town, my sister and I would head on over to our grandparents’ for games of Rook, Mormon Bridge, and Hand and Foot, which were always accompanied by large amounts of Tootsie Rolls, Costco-sized bags of sugar cookies and M & M’s, and cheese and crackers. While I was quickly developing my card skills by learning from the masters, I also was developing a deep and close friendship with my grandparents, especially with my grandma (as she was my partner in these games and my sister was partnered with my grandpa).
When my grandpa passed away about 6 years later, we still went over every Sunday to visit Grandma and to sometimes still play games. As I turned into a teenager, my grandma taught me the value of hard work and entrepreneurship as she paid me to clean her house and mow her lawn. Every time I came over to visit or to work, we would always chat about the latest goings-on in our lives—her about all the family gossip and what she was working on with her family history/extraction work and me about all my dating drama and school achievements. Many times, when I found myself upset or frustrated or lonely, I would run over to Grandma’s house and spend hours there fitting one of the puzzles that she always had going or asking her for advice. I spent many a Friday night and Saturday afternoon hanging out with my grandma.
My grandma believed in supporting us in our dreams. When my grandpa was still alive and I was still playing softball, they would both come and cheer me on at many of my games, wearing their matching “Austin Family Reunion” hats and toting the large water mugs they always had nearby. They would give me pointers on my technique and congratulate me on my triumphs. My grandma’s support continued as often as her strength and health would allow—she continued to come to my choir concerts, musicals, and school award ceremonies as we both got older. But I think one of my fondest memories of her support was when I was 19 and about to graduate high school—I had gotten an invitation to travel to Europe with teacher-nominated students from all over the state to participate in a Utah high school traveling choir (The Utah Ambassadors of Music). Although I attended the information session with my mom and wanted more than anything to go, I took one look at the price of the trip and felt my heart drop as I knew there was no way I could afford it
My mom could see my disappointment and knew that I’d been working hard to save up money for college that fall, and she tried to crunch some of the numbers for me to see if her and my dad could help make up some of the costs, but I had given up hope and resigned myself to having to miss out.
Imagine my surprise when I saw my grandma next and she told me that she’d fronted the whole security deposit herself ($500) and that she insisted I take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And with the help of my parents and with some intense saving on my own part, I was able to take that trip that will forever remain one of the most amazing opportunities I’ve experienced in my lifetime.
Fast forward a few years later—I had just decided to go on a mission, but since I had received the impression a year earlier that I SHOULDN’T go on one, I hadn’t been saving up my money to serve. I felt strongly that the timing was finally right for me to go, however, and I confided my wish to my parents, who agreed to take on the monthly costs as long as I would pay for all my own start-up costs (luggage, clothes, etc.). My grandma, ever wanting to show her support of every worthy dream, ended up contributing a significant portion of the monthly payment throughout my mission, as well as faithfully writing me at least once or twice a month for the entire 18 months I was out.
My grandma was a woman of faith. Throughout her life, she never wavered in her devotion to Jesus Christ and His restored gospel, and she was always encouraging us to follow righteous paths ourselves. With her humble nature, she never sought for positions of influence, but she influenced us all just the same–her faith never wavered when it came to her knowledge and testimony of the reality of our Father in Heaven and the importance of following his Son, not even when she faced trials such as the loss of her beloved spouse, intensifying injuries and illness, or the increasing wickedness of the world all around her. She always stood firm on the knowledge she had gained from a lifetime of righteous living, and she knew that all things would indeed “work together for [her] good” if she continued faithful.
As I began to sense over the past year that her time would be short with us, I tried to take advantage of every opportunity to visit her while we were in town. Some of these visits would end up lasting several hours and be among the most valued memories I have with her. As I shared my fears and concerns with her about starting a family, being a teacher, and overall growing up and finding my place in the world, she continually assured me that everything would work out and that we would be blessed as long as we kept trying our best to do what’s right. As I think of her last few hours, surrounded by dozens of family members around her—children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—I find in me the strength to go on in my fears because I want to be more like her : unwavering in my faith and forever showing my support and love to my family.
Even though the next several weeks and months and years will be hard as we have to accustom ourselves to life without her here in our presence, my heart is filled with gratitude for the long life she lived, for the legacy she has left us, and for the friendship that I had with her. I never could have known how much my life would be influenced by that simple suggestion of my mother to go to the house a street over and ask to play cards.