This is what Stahler and I read at her Celebration of Life.
We want to tell you about someone who taught us so much about life and love.
This special person—funny, witty, hilarious, and always quick with a smile—rode jet skis with us on the Elk River, zipped across the 100-foot zip-line in the backyard of the house we grew up in, took annual roadtrips to the beach—“just the girls”—and traveled all the way to Alaska and the University for family. This woman was none other than our grandma, Mary Lucille Gann Johnson.
We shared a name—Lucy—and, I’m happy to say, so much more. She was at every dance recital, play or musical, function, ball game, dinner soiree, and parent’s weekend, for as long as I can remember. Driving well into her 80s, she never missed a family occasion. But that’s not why I loved her—though it was certainly and added bonus. I love her for the woman she was—the woman she represented—and the woman she raised my mother and me to be.
She was classy—in the real, genuine sense of the word. She was a child of the Depression, yet she completed higher education—which, for a woman, was before her time. I never questioned her wisdom or counsel. She had advice for every situation—often packaged in zingy one-liners! A few of our family favorites are, “You’ll poke your eye out,” “You’ll freeze your ding dong off,” “Pretty is as pretty does,” “You’ll attract more flies with honey than vinegar,” and, “Kill them with kindness.” Just this week, she told me to be somebody, like my mama and my daddy. She was still encouraging us and comforting us to the end.
She let me sleep over, stay up late, eat peanut butter on everything, beg for water to get out of bed (100x). She taught me the great joy that comes only from eating cornbread with a spoon out of a glass of cold milk or sipping a cold “Co-Cola” straight out of the bottle (the little bottles are the best).
She let me climb too high in the magnolia tree in her front yard, and ride my bike too far through the neighborhood. She let me stay out until twilight in the summer months and would help me chase fireflies with a mason jar well into the moonlit hours of evening.
I wanted to know everything she knew and do everything she did. We spent many days and nights cooking, baking, and exploring the lost arts of crocheting, knitting, conversation, and card-playing. My grandmother was something else. She would teach you how to play a game, then beat you at it all night 😉 All in good fun. She also claimed that she wasn’t a very good bridge player—though her regular weekly bridge crew would beg to differ.
She was humble. She was generous. She would give and give and give and then give some more if you’d let her. She would fill our mouths full of food, our minds full of thought, our hearts full of love, and our pockets full of treasures. She once gave me one of her dearly beloved Herman’s WWII medals without blinking simply because I’d asked.
When it came to the most important things, Grandmama never held back. Kind words and warm memories were shared around the table as freely and expectedly as fried okra, green beans, boiled new potatoes, asparagus casserole, pot roast, biscuit, and chess pie—a few family favorites. There was a freedom that came when she was near—a comforting safety—that was both merciful and empowering. She taught me much of my basic Bible stories—not in any formal setting, but while we were stirring boiled custard at the stove or washing dishes in the sink.
Her house was like one huge adventure zone for hiding, discovering buried treasure, finding things lost or forgotten, and counting coins. She had a lot of mechanical iron piggy banks, but what intrigued us more than the antique collectors items were the coins inside. She had an awesome collection of pocket change, and we used to get in the floor, all five of us—me, Lucy, mama and daddy, and Gram—and count coins and talk.
I can honestly say I’ve never known any one who valued her family more. This is a priceless gift that she’s passed onto her daughter, her grandchildren, and the rest of her legacy to come.
There is so much to remember, so much to be treasured, and so rich a heritage represented in her life—well-lived and well-deserved. We now have the opportunity to join in with heaven as we celebrate her relationship with Jesus—all glory to God. She is now standing before Him, seeing Him face to face. What a God we serve that He would have mercy on us that, when we were yet sinners, Christ died for our salvation. Death has lost its sting in Christ’s resurrection and we can walk fully in that hope and resurrection power to fear not, for Christ has overcome this world; the grave is not the end, but the beginning of the next and better chapter of our lives, as we dwell in the presence of the Lord eternally.
It will never be the same. We will miss her dearly and will continue to feel the absence of her in our lives, but we’ve been changed for the better because we knew her and she will live on in our thoughts, in our memories, and in our hearts.
She has held and will forever hold an irreplaceable piece of my heart.
We love you, Gram.