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Grandma: She Taught By Example

Updated on September 3, 2012
Ada Lillian Simmons Sanders
Ada Lillian Simmons Sanders

I was 19 years old when I ventured alone and drove 3 hours to spend a week with my Grandma, Ada Lillian Simmons Sanders. I was old enough to appreciate the treaure of spending time with her, but not wise enough to capture her stories with a tape recorder. I only remember bits and pieces of the stories she told me. Mostly the funny ones, like the time she painted the toilet seat, forgot about it, and sat on it when it wasn't yet dry. But what I remember, more than anything else, is the life she lived and the example she set before me. This is what she taught me.

1. Never Give Up

My Grandma had been told that you marry the first man that asks you. So at 16 years of age she married a much older man. Unfortunately, he had ill intentions, and took her out to the woods to kill her. Somehow he got distracted and she was able to run for her life. Shortly thereafter she got the marriage annulled. She didn’t give up on love though, and she married again to an amazing man, my Grandfather, John Wiley Sanders.

Grandma was widowed at age 45, and for the first time, she had to go out and get a job to provide for her family. She started working at Ford Motor Company doing janitorial work, and then worked her way up to a seamstress sewing seat covers. Her hard work paid off, and she ended up retiring and receiving a pension from Ford.


2. Family is a Priority

While in her teens, my Grandma lost her dad to alcoholism. Later her mother met and married another man; only this man didn’t want the children that came with the marriage. My grandma and her siblings were sent to live with other relatives. As one can only imagine, this was difficult for her and her siblings. Then when my grandma was in her mid 40’s she lost her husband to pneumonia. She had 7 children, and my mother, the youngest, was only 3 years old. She would never marry again, because she wanted to keep her family together. I heard her say time and time again, “I kept my family together.” She took great pride in this accomplishment.

Grandma, Grandpa, and my mom
Grandma, Grandpa, and my mom

3. Faith is Foundational

After she was widowed, Grandma struggled more than most families to make ends meet. She had a strong faith in God, and He supplied her needs in miraculous ways. Many times she would run out of coal to heat her home, but mysteriously a basket full of it would appear on the porch. This same thing would happen when she was running out of food.

Grandma got Parkinson’s disease in her later years, but that didn’t stop her from reading her Bible. One of the memories indelibly etched in my mind is when I would see her in her room, her hands shaking, as she strained to read her Bible.


Grandma, My Mom, and My Daughter
Grandma, My Mom, and My Daughter

4. Don't Complain and Truth is Important

Grandma was 90 years old and I was 22 when she fell and broke her hip. This took her on a road of gradual decline until her death 2 years later. I would come to see her and say, “Hey Gram how are you feeling today.” She would always respond and say, “Well, I don’t want to complain; but I don’t want to lie and tell you I’m feeling good.”

5. Don't Gossip

I was fortunate to be able to spend quite a bit of time with my Grandma. When I was a young child she would accompany us on family vacations, and during the summer my siblings and I would take turns spending a few days with her. During the last 4 years of her life I would see her at least 2 or 3 times per week. I never once, and I mean never once, heard her say an unkind word about anyone, and I never heard her gossip. Oh, I’m sure she had her opinions, as she was a very strong woman, but she chose to keep them to herself.


6. Give

Grandma didn’t have a lot materially, but she was always giving. She gave of herself and her time. She was the only one who would take the time to get the big knots out of my long hair.


7. You Don't Have to Fear Death

At one point, after breaking her hip, my Grandma went into a coma. She lived with my parents, and all the family that could, gathered in her room as we thought she was going to die. She didn’t pass on that day, but she said she saw the gates of heaven, her husband John, and the 2 children she had lost as babies. She had no fear of death, because she knew her final destination. In fact, she would always say, “I’m ready to go when the Good Lord is ready to take me.”

It was a fall day in south Florida when my mom needed me to watch Grandma because the nurse couldn’t come in that day. She was bone thin, frail, and had gotten a huge bed sore on her back. I gave her Ensure to drink, but she could only take a few sips. I prayed that day that God would take her home. She had lived a good life with faith, integrity, and strength. I didn't want to see her suffer anymore. The next morning, when the nurses from hospice came in, they turned her on her side to bathe her, and she took her last breath here on earth to be united with her family in heaven.


Yolanda Ada and Israel John - 8 years old
Yolanda Ada and Israel John - 8 years old

Her Spirit Lives On

I wrote a tribute to my Grandma that was read at her funeral. The tribute ended with these words:

You have meant so much to those whose lives you have touched. I pray that we will not be content to just hold the memories in our hearts, but that we would let them become an inspiration and a reminder of how we should live. Then as we act upon the things you have shown us with your life; your spirit will live on through our lives.

It has been 27 years ago that my Grandma passed away, and I do believe her spirit lives on through her family. I often feel her spirit with me, and I never felt it stronger than when I adopted my 8 year-old Guatemalan twins, Yolanda and Israel: who officially ,at the time of the adoption, became Yolanda Ada and Israel John. I know she is smiling down on me.


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    • heartexpressions profile image
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      heartexpressions 4 years ago

      Thank you CrisSp. We have been blessed to have such amazing women in our lives. It had to be hard to not see her before she passed, but is sound like you keep her spirit alive, and that is the best tribute we can give to those who gave so much for us.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Family is important! You can't argue with that.

      This is very inspirational and a great tribute to your grandma. I grew up with my grandma and she was more than a mother to me, spoiling me, pampering me at all times and taking me out to the mall for candies and shopping spree. :( It hurt so bad that I didn't get the chance to hug her for the last time before our Almighty creator took her back. I was far away from home trapped in the Gulf and was helpless. It took sometime for me to finally accept the truth and I miss her so dearly.

      Your hub reminded me so much of my grandma and of her unconditional love. Thank you for sharing this lovely write.

      Voting up and beautiful.

    • heartexpressions profile image
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      heartexpressions 4 years ago

      I'm so glad that helped tsmog to give you inspiration. Thanks for commenting.

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 4 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Thanks Heartexpressions. This has helped to put me along the right track for today and the journey I must travel tomorrow. Inspirational and presents hope

      Tim

    • heartexpressions profile image
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      heartexpressions 4 years ago

      Thanks for your comments and your vote, Break of Dawn, they are truly appreciated!

    • Break of Dawn profile image

      Break of Dawn 4 years ago

      What a lovely hub and tribute to your dear grandma. I truly enjoyed reading about her life and the joyous memories you have of her. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. You got my vote!

    • heartexpressions profile image
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      heartexpressions 4 years ago

      Yes indeed YogaKat; thanks for commenting.

    • YogaKat profile image

      YogaKat 4 years ago from Oahu Hawaii

      I have/had a grandma just like yours . . . how lucky we are to have these beautiful spirits to inspire us

    • heartexpressions profile image
      Author

      heartexpressions 4 years ago

      Thanks for the comments PaisleeGal. I'll check out your stories. I see your from Tennessee; that's where my Grandma was born and raised.

    • PaisleeGal profile image

      Pat Materna 4 years ago from Memphis, Tennessee, USA

      Beautiful story and life lessons shared. Enjoyed it very much. Our Grandmas would have been friends. I'm kind of new to Hubpages and am working on a series of stories about my Grands.

    • heartexpressions profile image
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      heartexpressions 4 years ago

      Thanks KDuBarryo3 - You are truly blessed to have been raised by such awesome parents, and you are wise beyond your years.

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 4 years ago

      I am so happy that my parents raised me just like your grandmother. When I stepped into the college portion of my life, I was shocked to hear how my fellow classmates gossiped and bickered about how horrid their parents were; however, your grandmother is right: family is important, never give up, and don't gossip. I'm a 20 year old college student and I find family to be important and I have goals in my life that I'm working every footstep of the way to achieve. Thank you for shedding light on some very valued lessons :)

    • heartexpressions profile image
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      heartexpressions 4 years ago

      Thanks!

    • jenbeach21 profile image

      jenbeach21 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Very Beautiful!