A Memorable Grandmother

My precious grandmother, “Nanny,” went home to be with Jesus last Saturday night, March 6th. Many of you are well aware of what a phenomenal woman she was. For those of you who did not have the privilege of learning this personally, I would like to introduce you with a glimpse of her greatness through the following letter I wrote to her last month on her 91st birthday.

February 4, 2004
Dear Nanny,
I made myself a piece of toast with cottage cheese this morning and I thought of you. I added a sprinkle of cinnamon and sweetener and gave a piece to Clancy and talked about you. There are so many times throughout the day that I think of you. Even when I dated the top of this letter, I thought of you – always telling me to be sure and date everything!
When I drink a cup of hot tea I think of you and all the places we’ve shared a cup of tea. My favorite place was at the Empress Hotel in Canada, when the waiter dubbed Aunt Madeline, the “Tea Nanny,” or something like that.
I thought about you last week when our family was on their first cruise. They were oohing and ahhing over everything. I had to hold my tongue so as not to spoil their excitement. But hey, when you’ve been on a “Love Boat” cruise for three weeks to the South of France, it is hard to compare, isn’t it? We have been all over the world together and, as fabulous as those places were, the company is what I remember most.
I think of you whenever I run into a fan, half of them you wrote to at some time or another when they were just kids. What an impact you made on their lives. They usually eventually stopped writing fan letters to me and started calling and visiting you as their surrogate grandma. You’ve taught me to think of the meeting of each fan as an opportunity to touch their lives, either with rejection or acceptance, even if that was simply with a smile.
Whenever someone starts talking badly about somebody else, I think of you. I remember as a little girl hearing my mother say to me, “Nanny never says a negative thing about anyone.” I thought, wow, that would be hard to do. But you taught me that it is possible. You always end any kind of conversation (gossip) like that by saying something kind about them.

  1. Which brings up another thing you’ve taught me, to “kill ‘em with kindness.” You are the best at this. You never overcome evil with evil, but always overcome evil with good. I have seen this time and time again in your life. You are a wise lady. It works!
    You know how much I love to scrapbook. I think I got that appreciation for remembering our lives from you. My memory can’t compare to yours, but you taught me to write everything down and take lots of pictures. Now I am adding to the treasures of scrapbooks that you started for me, by continuing the tradition with my family.
    Whenever I’m mad at Steve, I think of you. That may sound odd, but I watched you be a loving, respectful, submissive wife in times harder than I will ever have to think about. If you can trust God enough in those kinds of situations then I can surely forgive my husband a few annoyances and faults.
    I remember as a Mouseketeer you would always tell me to “wave at the security guard” on the way into the lot. You knew that no position was to be treated with more or less respect than another. Showing respect for authority was important, but showing respect for those in a position beneath your own was even more righteous.
    How many times I have thought of you when I drive the crazy freeways in Los Angeles. I can’t believe you would hop behind the steering wheel of that “boat” we used to drive and weave in and out of traffic to cross over the 405 to get to the 134 on our way to Burbank. What a woman!
    You may have been retired but you were just getting ready to begin! I was so proud of you for going on the “Revolution,” the first loop roller coaster, with me at “Magic Mountain” when you were 65-years-old. You have always been just waiting for the next adventure. I think of you with every adventure, every trip, every new place I go.
    I think of you whenever I curl up in my favorite chair with a good book. I’m so glad that, by the grace of God, He has let you keep your good eyesight. I can’t imagine what you would do if you couldn’t read. I pray that I am so blessed when I reach 91, that I have the sharp eyes and even sharper mind that you do.
    There are three things, above all others, that I believe I learned (or inherited) from you. First, my love for being a mother. You have three godly children who adore you. That says so much about what kind of mother you are, especially through childhood circumstances that could have understandably headed any one of them in the wrong direction.
    Secondly, your trust in the Lord. I remember a counselor once telling me that the only way he could explain why I had so much peace was that I must be living in denial. No, it isn’t that, although there really isn’t an explanation that makes sense to this world. The truth is, I was just born with the deep knowledge that I can trust the Lord no matter what the world throws my way. I notice that you live the same way, so God must have passed down that “trust” gene through you the same way he passed down the “42” gene.
    Which brings me to the times when I think of you the most – when playing dominoes! I love being your partner. I appreciate you, “the Texas 42 queen,” being so sweet about playing with me. I know there have been many times I’ve made a bonehead play and you just let it go. You are a ruthless, serious domino champion, but it really doesn’t matter to you whether you win or lose – you just love to play. And so do I, especially cause I get to have the best partner who ever lived!
    Thank you, Nanny, for giving me so many opportunities to think about you throughout the day. It always makes me smile and offer a quick prayer of thanks to the Lord for allowing me the privilege of getting you as a grandmother.
    I lubba you, too.
    Lisa
    (If you would be interested in reading the remarks I wrote for her memorial service then simply follow the link to this week’s journal entry. www.LisaWhelchel.com/coffee.html
    From our archives, 1/12/04
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