Thursday, April 11, 2013

In Memory of My Grandmother

Grandma loved to read. She usually had a stack of 10 or so large-print library books to keep her busy.

As I write this post, sitting in my home office in Bali, Indonesia, most of my family is together in Ohio to say good-bye to my grandmother. Matilda "Tillie" Cramer passed away this past Sunday at age 93. Her funeral starts in an hour-and-a-half. I can't be there, but Grandma's pastor is arranging for me to attend via Skype. I'm so thankful for that. 

I wrote a tribute to Grandma that will be read at the funeral. Very, very few of my readers knew my grandmother, but she was a very special lady who was well worth knowing. I thought I'd share this with you as well. It is my way of honoring her memory tonight.


A Tribute to Grandma

Rachel fell asleep on Grandma's shoulder as they watched Jeopardy together one night. Grandma called me in to get a picture. I'm glad Rachel has this memory.
In the small hours of the morning of April 7, 2013, a precious gift passed from our world and into the next. Those who knew her as daughter, sister, and wife have already preceded her. Of those who remain, some knew her as mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister-in-law, aunt, and friend.

Regardless of the relationship, many, many people loved Tillie Cramer. It was impossible not to love her. Many people could say many different things in her honor. Those of us privileged to call her Grandma have many precious memories of our years growing up near the warmth of her love and care.

I love the smile.
Some of my fondest childhood memories of Grandma center around the farmhouse where she lived for fifty-four years. I remember baking cookies with her, setting the table for the hearty meals she prepared for Grandpa and my uncles while they still lived at home and came in from working in the fields. I washed dishes with her.

I snapped beans with her and shelled peas with her. Of course, I much preferred snapping the beans to picking them under the hot sun. But no matter the discomfort of even that, Grandma was always busy. Canning corn, carrots, tomato juice, pickles of many varieties, applesauce, peaches, and strawberry jam. Under her watchful eye, with her daughters working alongside, and grandkids who helped in smaller ways, one crop after another was preserved and put away to supply food during the winter months.

Four generations: Grandma, Mom, Rachel and me.
I remember many small things. We all remember many small things.

I remember the stack of records Grandma used to put on her old record player at the farmhouse. One album after another would drop and play the old tunes and singers she loved so well. Roy Rogers, George Beverly Shea, Johnny Cash, and many others. Hours and hours of music filled her home.

I remember Grandpa and Grandma sitting in their recliners on Saturday night watching Hee-Haw, laughing over the “Pickin’and Grinnin’” segment, and the “Hey Grandpa, What’s for Supper?” segment.

Grandma knew how to have fun...even when one of her great-grandkids decided to decorate her up with stickers.
 I remember way back when Grandma still had an old wringer washer in the basement. I remember her sending sheets through the rollers to wring the water out of them. She cautioned me to stay away because it would be dangerous if my hand got caught in the wringer. Protective. Vigilant.

One time, Grandma and I went to babysit for Maria when she was still an infant. We stood by the crib looking at the tiny baby. I picked up a box of diapers, and it slipped out of my hands into the crib. Grandma instantly leaned over the crib to protect her newest grandchild from the clumsiness of the oldest one. A small thing, certainly, but Grandma was like that. In her quiet, gentle way, she  protected those who were given to her to love. I’m sure we all have stories like this.

We all saw this same look of delight in Grandma's eyes when she held each newest addition to her family. She didn't get to see Rachel until she was 2 years old, so this is one of the first pictures I have of the two of them together.

Grandma was always busy, always thinking. In recent years, whenever we walked into her house, we might find her reading one of a stack of books, working a crossword puzzle or a cryptoquote, watching the news, or Wheel of Fortune, or Smarter Than a Fifth Grader. Of course, if it was winter, you could be sure she would be monitoring the weather channel, especially if one of her ever-increasing family was planning to be out on the road. Again, protecting us in her quiet way.

Grandma with some of her granddaughters...and a great-granddaughter, too.
Her grandchildren grew up. Two more generations came along to expand the circle of love Grandma created. We went our different ways. Some across town, some across the state, some across the country, and some partway around the world. But wherever we went, we all knew one very important thing. Grandma loved us. No matter where we were, no matter what we were doing with our lives, we would always be welcome at Grandma’s house.

Grandma’s house was a place of warmth, a place of peace. You could sit down and relax with her. You could talk to her and share your heart. No matter what, even if perhaps she didn’t like some of our choices, she still loved us. She loved us because we were given to her to love.

Scrabble was one of Grandma's favorite games. She regularly beat anyone and everyone who was brave enough to play with her.

Grandma loved her family well. Grandma was, and is, dearly loved in return. She will be missed by all who knew her. We were privileged to have her in our lives. As we honor Grandma’s memory today, I can only hope that something of her gentle, quiet, loving spirit will live on in each of us to pass on to those we, in turn, have been given to love.


  1. That is beautiful, Julie. I am sorry for your loss but thankful that you had such a great relationship with her. She had to be a wonderful grandmother because she had such wonderful grandchildren...all six of the ones I know! I have always enjoyed having family around but I have come to appreciate them more as I grow older. I believe that family, especially children and grandchildren, are God's greatest gifts to us! Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Thanks for that, Janice. Family truly is a blessing. And you are right. We do come to appreciate them more as we grow older.

  2. I love the picture of her with all those stickers on her face and the one with Rachel when she was 2. She looks like a woman full of joy and strength. What a blessing to your family!

    1. Joy and strength. Joy...even when things were difficult. And strength...which carried her through those times. And her joy rubbed off on us. We really were blessed.

  3. Great tribute, she looked like a light in a dark world. I, too, love the picture with Rachel at age two. (Our girls are growing up so fast).

    1. They sure are. I'm so glad I took so many pictures on our visits home. They are wonderful memories. They give Rachel (and me) a way to look back and remember someone who was so very special.


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