My new year’s resolution is to become more like my Grandma B. She is a legend in my family. At 95, she was tech-savvy enough to show her grandson-in-law how to use his smartphone to send pictures because they had the same phone. She only stopped texting and sending pictures when, at around 100, she had a ministroke and couldn’t see the keyboard anymore. At nearly 102, she was watching six great-grandchildren under the age of 10 so her granddaughter and another grandson-in-law could go Christmas shopping.
Grandma B. was the eternal optimist, always “just fine” or “getting better” and didn’t like to be fussed over. She firmly believed it was her job to fuss over and take care of you. She was a friend to everyone she met and never had a cross word to say about anyone. She kept in touch with her family, remembered birthdays, celebrated accomplishments and prayed for those who were struggling.
Grandma’s greatest desire every Christmas was for her family to get together for at least one meal. For the three of us in my area, she would ask that we get our families together at a restaurant, and she would foot the bill. That would be her Christmas gift to us. Our job was to get together. It was the same for our family in other places. We all did our best, but some years were more successful than others. This Christmas, though, she got most of us together—nearly all of her four sons and daughters-in-law, 19 grandchildren and their spouses, 57 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great-grandchild. We all descended on Pocatello, Idaho, to celebrate her life and mourn her death at her funeral a few days before Christmas.
She taught me powerful lessons, and I hope to become more like her. Here’s how.
My grandmother was a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church). Her father was from a faithful Latter-day Saint pioneer family, and her mother joined the Church in Denmark and emigrated to Utah as a young woman. Although I don’t remember ever hearing Granda B. bear her testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I watched her live it. Elder D. Todd Christofferson said,
To persevere firm and steadfast in the faith of Christ requires that the gospel of Jesus Christ penetrate one’s heart and soul, meaning that the gospel becomes not just one of many influences in a person’s life but the defining focus of his or her life and character.
That was Grandma B. For her, living a Christlike life meant loving and teaching others as well as working to improve herself. She went to church on Sundays and read and prayed daily. One of my favorite gifts this Christmas was from my sister. She framed a picture of my 101-year-old grandma in her nightgown kneeling on the wood floor at the side of her bed saying her nightly prayers. My sister said that every night Grandma prayed for each of us by name.
President Thomas S. Monson taught,
To be an example of faith means that we trust in the Lord and in His word. It means that we possess and that we nourish the beliefs that will guide our thoughts and our actions. … Amidst the confusion of our age, the conflicts of conscience, and the turmoil of daily living, an abiding faith becomes an anchor to our lives.
Faith was the defining character of my grandmother’s life, and my new year’s resolution is to more conscientiously make faith the defining characteristic of mine.
Resolving to Put Family First
My grandmother loved her husband and her family. They were always her first priority. This was evident in many things that she did, including the Christmas get-togethers that she so diligently tried to orchestrate every year. I went to college in Rexburg, and once a month Grandma B. and her siblings met at a restaurant there for lunch. Any grandkids who were in town were welcome to come. Her treat. The few times I was able to go, my grandma was so happy and made sure that I was introduced to everyone. She stayed close to her siblings and their spouses throughout their long lives, and stayed close to her children and grandchildren and their families as well.
At her funeral, one of my uncles said that she started social networking with a phone and an address book long before Facebook was ever a thing. And she made sure that her social network included her family. She worked to help her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren form strong bonds. Elder M. Russell Ballard said,
In the routine of life, we often take our families—our parents and children and siblings—for granted. But in times of danger and need and change, there is no question that what we care about most is our families! It will be even more so when we leave this life and enter into the spirit world. Surely the first people we will seek to find there will be father, mother, spouse, children, and siblings.
I believe the mission statement for mortality might be “to build an eternal family.” Here on this earth we strive to become part of extended families with the ability to create and form our own part of those families.
This year, I resolve to reach out to my family more often.
Remembering to Love Others
Grandma B. was a social butterfly who loved people and getting to know them. She was always looking for ways to make other people feel comfortable and special. At her funeral, one of my cousins said, “Her superpower is making everyone she meets feel like he or she is the most important person in the world. Because when she is talking to you, you are the most important person to her at that moment.” Grandma was always interested in you, how you were doing and what was going on in your life. And she taught me to do the same for others in counsel and in deed.
The summer after I graduated from college, I was in Ohio doing a copy editing internship and attending church at the local college single’s ward. The first Sunday I was at church, the bishop (or lay pastor of the congregation) knew who I was because I was the only new person there. But during Relief Society (the women’s meeting), the only two girls who talked to me were recent high school graduates who were also new to the ward. I was there for three weeks before the Relief Society leaders ever came up to me.
When I complained to my grandmother about this, she said, “Well, now that you know how it feels, the next time you are in your ward sitting with your friends, you look out for the new people. You go over and introduce yourself and talk to them. Sit by them and make them feel welcome.” Grandma B. lived her life looking for ways to reach out to others, and encouraged me to do the same. My new year’s resolution is to continue practicing what she preached.
Teaching the Importance of Education
Grandma B. was a teacher by profession, and education was very important to her. At her funeral, I discovered the sacrifice her family made so she could get an education. Grandma B. grew up on a farm in southeastern Idaho. After she graduated from high school, her dad told her that the family only had enough money to send her two older brothers to college. But her uncle suggested that her dad had a prize bull he could sell to pay for her tuition. So my great-grandfather sold his prize bull so he could send his first daughter, my grandmother, to Ricks College. And his investment has paid dividends for hundreds of children, including his own great-grandchildren.
My grandmother taught first and second grades for 40 years and was a pioneer in the Head Start early education program in her area, reaching out to children who needed a little extra love. This was a gift that she shared with her grandchildren as well. Several of her grandsons had learning disabilities and needed a little extra help in the summers. So they came to Grandma’s house for a few weeks of tutoring. But she didn’t want the boys to feel like they were spending the summer in school, so she made sure they had a lot of fun at her house too.
Grandma B. not only taught her children the importance of education but her grandchildren as well. She and my grandfather saved enough to give each grandchild $50 a month for two years to help us either in college or on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ. It was their contribution to our education. And my new year’s resolution is to continue teaching my children the importance of gaining an education.
The Love of Learning
Grandma B. had a lifelong love of learning. When she found an interesting newspaper article that she thought one of her family would like, she would clip and send it. She was always telling me something that she had discovered or read about. My grandparents amassed an impressive library of books during their life together and passed many of them on to their children and grandchildren. They traveled frequently, learning about the places they visited. Grandma wasn’t afraid of technology and learned how to use computers and smartphones.
But more than her love of learning was her love of sharing what she learned with others. A great example of this is when my husband got a new smartphone and was trying to figure out how to attach pictures to a text (or something like that). We happened to be in Pocatello visiting my then-95-year-old grandmother, and she had the same phone. She knew how to do whatever my husband was trying to do, so she showed him.
She epitomized this teaching by President Dallin H. Oaks,
Our quest for truth should be as broad as our life’s activities and as deep as our circumstances permit. A learned Latter-day Saint should seek to understand the important religious, physical, social, and political problems of the day. The more knowledge we have of heavenly laws and earthly things, the greater influence we can exert for good on those around us and the safer we will be from scurrilous and evil influences that may confuse and destroy us.
… This learning … is not confined to classrooms or preparation for school examinations. It applies to everything we do in life and every place we do it—at home, at work, and at church.
And my resolution is to do the same.
Showing Good Manners
As an educator and a parent, Grandma B. was big on displaying good manners and good etiquette. This, to her, was a show of consideration for others. But rather than just demanding good manners from me, she helped me and tried to take away any excuse for not having them. For example, every month that she and my grandfather sent money for my education, she asked that I write them a thank-you letter. She explained that she expected me to show good manners in that way. But she took away any excuse I had for not doing that by providing me with stamped, self-addressed envelopes to use to mail the letters.
My grandmother was also well-spoken and articulate. She was careful in the words she used and always tried to uplift others. She was truly an example in word and in conversation. President Monson said,
The words we use can lift and inspire, or they can harm and demean. In the world today there is a profusion of profanity with which we seem to be surrounded at nearly every turn. It is difficult to avoid hearing the names of Deity being used casually and thoughtlessly. Coarse comments seem to have become a staple of television, movies, books, and music. Bandied about are slanderous remarks and angry rhetoric. Let us speak to others with love and respect, ever keeping our language clean and avoiding words or comments that would wound or offend.
For my grandmother, having good manners and following proper etiquette was a way to show love and respect for others. And this year, my resolution is to follow her example and watch what I say and how I say it.
The Gift of Optimism
My Grandma B. was blessed with good health and longevity, even as she passed the 100-year mark. At least, she would always tell you that she’s doing well. But she wouldn’t really tell you about the ministrokes that made it so that she couldn’t see very well…unless she had to tell you not to text her. And only so you would understand that if you did, she wouldn’t be able to text you back. Or she would tell you that her knee was bothering her since she no longer had cartilage holding her knee together. It was uncomfortable, but she was fine. No matter what happened, she would tell you that she was fine. Because she focused on the positive aspects of her life, not the negative. President Monson taught,
So much in life depends on our attitude. The way we choose to see things and respond to others makes all the difference. To do the best we can and then to choose to be happy about our circumstances, whatever they may be, can bring peace and contentment.
Charles Swindoll—author, educator, and Christian pastor—said: “Attitude, to me, is more important than … the past, … than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.”
We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. For maximum happiness, peace, and contentment, may we choose a positive attitude.
This year, I am resolving to have a more optimistic outlook. Life may be challenging, but I can still enjoy it.
Being Prepared and Planning Ahead
Grandma B. liked to be prepared and plan ahead. And she made lists to help her do that. I am also a list maker. Making lists helps me to make sure that I stay on track and get things done. I was really happy when I discovered, years ago, that she and I shared this life hack. My grandma moved in with my parents about 5 years ago. I don’t know how long this had been in the works, but it was a well-planned-out move. My grandmother wanted to move out of her house on her own terms, well before she became incapacitated in any way. So she decided to have a big party to celebrate her 50th anniversary in her home, then sell the house and move to Arizona with my parents.
For a year or two before the move, she would ask her sons, daughters-in-law and grandkids what furniture of hers we wanted. And then she would write the name down on a Post-It note and stick it to the back of the piece of furniture. If more than one person wanted the same thing, then she would put the names on a list. She also made a list of her most expensive jewelry and other items (the ones she wasn’t planning to take with her to Arizona), and divided it up among her grandchildren as equally as possible. She was prepared and planned ahead for her move from Idaho to Arizona.
Probably my favorite Grandma B. preparedness story is that she had her funeral arrangements in place for years before she actually passed away. Down to the company she hired to transport her body from Arizona back up to Idaho for her funeral. And this year, I am going to be better about planning ahead.
Resolving to be an Example of the Believers
My Grandma was an example of the believers. She sought to live the best life possible, follow the example of the Savior, and tried to teach others how to do the same. President Monson said,
… We are to be an example in spirit. To me that means we strive to have in our lives kindness, gratitude, forgiveness, and goodwill. These qualities will provide for us a spirit which will touch the lives of those around us. It has been my opportunity through the years to associate with countless individuals who possess such a spirit. We experience a special feeling when we are with them, a feeling that makes us want to associate with them and to follow their example. They radiate the Light of Christ and help us feel His love for us.
That was my Grandma B. And this year, my new year’s resolution is to become more like her.