Thursday, May 2, 2013

Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Tonight God gave me one of those gifts that is just beyond words. It wasn't costly, but a true treasure.

My dear friend brought us a meal today and included some cookies that she knows are my favorite. They are my favorite because they are delicious, but also because they were my Grandma's recipe. What my friend didn't know is that three years ago today is the day my Grandma passed from this earth.

Carrot cookies on her plate

This no a coincidence. This is a gift from a loving Father who is in every detail. Every. Detail.

I had the opportunity to give the eulogy at my Grandma's funeral. It was shortly after Easter, and in the Catholic church there are rules about how long a non-priest could speak, so I had 5 minutes. I think it's fitting to post it again today.

The smell of an attic, the criss-crossed lines of the cord on a vaccum, or sweeper as she would call it. The scent of original Dawn dish soap, the boom of ice on a frozen lake or the crick at the cabin, carrot cookies gently tucked between layers of waxed paper, an exercise bike, a shamrock.

These are just a few of the things in life that remind me of my Grandma. Although these things are ordinary, Grandma was always extraordinarily present. She had an overflow of love, faithfulness, and joy not just in the big things in each of our lives, but she was committed to loving us in the everyday, ordinary details with a whole heart. Her love and her life have left a mark on each of us that will live on.

Early in our marriage Grandma & Grandpa joined us at the cabin for a couple of days. That was the first time I clearly saw the beautiful intimacy in her love for her “Willy-Woah.” She was finishing his unspoken thoughts and knew what he wanted before he ever spoke his need. It was magical to watch the way she suited her husband. Grandpa is a man marked by a woman who adored him. Their marriage has been much to desire. Grandma delighted in being Bill O’Neill’s wife, and he was her best friend. She was a constant support, a happy companion eager to help her husband in any task, large or small. Together they accomplished a lot! She loved to hold his hand, simply enjoying his company, and calling him a “show off” when they played cards. Grandma loved living life with Grandpa.

I have always aspired to live like Grandma. One thing that always stood out to me is the way she truly found joy and contentment in the happiness of others. Grandma and Grandpa alike have displayed profound generosity of love, time, and resources. The clearest picture of this generosity is in the cabin. When I would call to say how thankful we were to be there, she would always say, “It sure does make me happy that you got to use it. That is why I bought it!” When I was at college, Grandma would send me a card with some “milk money” and as more of us went to college she had to stop because she wanted to be fair. She was broken hearted over it because she just wanted to give. She supported her children in 4-H, beauty pageants, boy scouts, and race cars. She bought us school supplies and sewed us costumes. She has left so many marks.

In my dad, Larry’s life I see Grandma’s mark in a tender, compassionate heart. As a young boy, his tears from Jesus’ not having a bed come from her tender soul.

In Pegi, I see Grandma’s mark in love that is not passive, but shown though intense daily devotion and faithful action.

Nancie displays Grandma’s ability to make things fun, a love of little dogs, and the ability to find a treasure in almost anything…and manage to hold on to all of those treasures. I loved exploring the attic with Grandma. She always said that she felt sorry for whoever had to go through all of the things, but I’m not sorry. I’m glad she kept it all.

My mom, Tracie, is marked by the desire to pour into the lives of her grandchildren. Grandma provided an example of delight and joy in our lives.

In Frank there is a mark of wit and a good joke.

In Angela I see Grandma’s goal oriented drive. The ability to have a dream and to carry it out. I think of Grandma & Grandpa’s bicycle trip to Ireland and her thousands of miles on the exercise bike.

In my brother Bill there is a mark of creating and enjoying an adventure. Grandma used to bring us into magnificent adventure and I know she enjoyed it even more than we did!

In Joe I see a mark of protection and a love of the outdoors. With Grandma we were never afraid of the woods, the dark, or coming upon a bear. We knew we would just need to raise up our arms as high as we could, look at the ground, and back away because that bear would be afraid of us.

In Robin I see Grandma’s appreciation for a good reminisce. Grandma always had a story to accompany a trip to Dolly Madison for ice cream or about throwing rocks through a church window, Aunt Mickey’s long beautiful hair, beating up people that picked on Uncle Louis, and how Bernadette is going to float back to Colorado when California gets hit by the “Big One.”

In Amanda there is a mark of a mind made up.

In Megan’s life there is a mark of loyalty.

I’m not sure if Courtney can smoosh a spider with her thumb, but she is marked by an appreciation of things that make most of us squirm. Every time I brought a friend to the cabin, they have asked about Grandma’s bone collection on the shed.

There are so many things I will miss about Grandma. They way she would say, “Well, Hello Dolly!” when I called and how she loved to let our kids jump on her bed. She has left marks on each of us and we can carry those on to others. What marks has she left on your life? What ordinary things did she make extraordinary for you? Through her faithful love in each of our daily lives, she certainly lived extraordinarily.

For their 50th Anniversary, Grandpa & Grandma took us all to Glenwood Springs.
One of the last times I saw my Grandma.



  1. What a beautiful example of a graceful and giving life.

  2. Your grandma sounded like an amazing lady - thanks for sharing about her.

    P.S. You should share her cookie recipe too!

  3. Aunt Betty and I shared a hobby and passion for life; her adventures with Uncle Bill were inspiring. I traveled the same trails, collected the same skulls and loved everything about the ordinary; because I didn't want to miss the moment of the extraordinary.......And tell Uncle Bill he can't go on the roof any more!!!!!