Posted by: Donna Douglass | Thursday April 19, 2012

A tale of two grandmas

As women we make many choices. One major choice, perhaps the major choice, lies between spending our lives “being someone” and investing our lives in our family and others. Perhaps there is a delicate way to balance between the two, but only one can truly have priority.

Since God blessed me with a rare, traditional family, I have two grandmothers. Both have passed from the earth, leaving behind a lesson in their lives.

Grandma L was an amazing woman. Her list of accolades includes raising three children, single-handedly starting a ground-breaking home health network in her county, helping found the internationally-respected US Dressage Federation (USDF), serving as its president for four years and winning national-level horse riding awards. President Kennedy’s wife Jacqueline attended one of the horse shows she hosted on her farm. Many distinguished people in the dressage world attended her memorial service and honored her with their stories. Hers was a long and distinguished life.

Holidays at Grandma L’s farm contained great fun riding horses, jumping over fences as if we were horses and playing with statue horses. It was a young girl’s dream. But it was also necessary to be quiet and very careful which kept the atmosphere just a little uneasy.

I learned much of Grandma L’s history as an adult, especially at her memorial. She has quite a legacy, as recorded in many articles and publications, and even a book she co-wrote with her husband.

In contrast, Grandma M never worked outside her home during her married life. She also raised three children – and countless flowers and vegetables and crops. She fed innumerable birds in her feeders and knew what each was. She fixed countless wonderful meals and tasty treats. She never published a thing but wrote many poems of love and life that the family preserves.

Holidays at Grandma M’s rang with laughter and love. Parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, grandparents and grandkids all playing together in the family home. Even after we spread out across the country, it was still the family home.

Her husband died suddenly, without warning. Even in that overwhelming moment she made a comment of great wisdom that has lodged in my mind ever since. “I have no regrets,” she said. Nothing she’d left unsaid or undone, nothing she wished she could change – after more than half a century of marriage. Oh, that I could live like that with those I love!

After her husband passed, my dad would help on the farm. Grandma M always fixed lunch, carried it out to where Dad was working and sat down with him, making sure he knew she appreciated him and his work.

Each time I left her home after a visit, she made me promise to take care of myself. I did the same to her and we embraced. Over the years, she grew ever more frail in my arms, but I was certain I was her favorite grandkid. I’m sure now that we all felt that way.

Grandma M knew how to love. Her legacy lives on. Not mentioned in a single book, it is engraved on the hearts of her family.

Now as our second child arrives, I daily feel the weight of choices about how I will spend my increasingly limited time. We’ve chosen to name our second daughter after Grandma M. Her name reminds me what really matters. All my career achievements are morsels of chocolate that taste wonderful but melt in a moment and pass away. But love for my family might impact generations if only I can choose to love like Grandma M.


  1. […] Donna’s grandmother, treasured for her love of her family. (For more about Grandma, see Donna’s most recent blog.) “Grace” reminds us of God’s free gift to us – in this case, His free gift of love. And […]

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