Grammy Great: More than just a name

Last week, I wrote the first memorial column I've ever written specifically for someone who I cared for who had passed away.

This week, sadly, I'm writing my second.

Last Monday morning, as my other column was just reaching mailboxes and I was just waking from an early morning nap after some time in the woods, I received a phone call I'd been dreading for months now.

Harriet M. "Hattie" Getch, belovedly known by so many as just "Grammy Great," had gone home to be with her loving Father in Heaven. Her pain and suffering in this world was no more.

Now, I say that I'd been dreading the news not because I was worried for her to die, but mostly because I was worried how we'd ever live without a woman who'd become such an anchor in the lives of so many of us.

Grammy Great had told me years ago that when her time came, she was ready.

She'd told so many of us to celebrate the end of her life because it meant she got to meet Jesus.

But still, we held on to prayers — maybe somewhat selfish ones — that she'd stick around just a little longer.

But our prayers weren't all selfish, either. They were based around the realization that the woman we knew as Grammy Great left a legacy.

"She wasn't just Grammy Great... She was great," my great uncle Lloyd said as he delivered her funeral eulogy with a powerful message of just how great the woman we were letting go of was.

And the legacy that great woman left on the lives of all she loved so much was this: You can be great, too. In fact, you already are, because you're loved.

Grammy Great was a firm woman. I've known her for all 30 of my years, but that was less than a third of her own years, and in that time, I heard her raise her voice only a few times.

Now, I'm sure that being the mother to 12 children and having raised her own brothers from age 12, she'd done her fair share of raising her voice. But in the time I knew her, her sternest commands came in a still, quiet voice that shook you to the core. When Grammy spoke, everyone listened.

And she wasn't afraid to tell you if you were doing wrong. She would try to correct the paths of those she loved when they came to her for advice.

But no matter how she spoke — still, quiet or booming, loud — she always did so with love.

There was never any doubt, on the brightest day or in your darkest night, that Grammy Great loved you, pulled for you, was on your side.

And that's a legacy! But her legacy was one that came through a relationship that she held very dearly in her life, and one she was forced to rely on often: Her relationship with her Father.

At age 12, Grammy Great lost her mother and became not only a sister and a daughter, but a home raiser.

Back in 1983, right around the time I was born, Grammy Great lost her husband — a pain I could still see in her eyes years and years later when we talked about it. Four different times, she sat at the funerals of her own children.

But in those hours of loss and darkness, Grammy knew she must turn to the Lord. It was her only option, and she wasn't afraid to let you know that.

Grammy's legacy didn't just say we could be great it; pointed us to how to be great.

Now, I know that not all my readers share my religious beliefs, which is why I don't always share them too much in this column. But this wouldn't be a genuine tribute to Grammy Great if there weren't a little bit of Jesus in it.

She had faith and lived a life that said she could be great because of her source of strength, but most importantly, she passed those gifts on to those who loved her.

She prayed for us, she strengthened us with her wise words, and sometimes, she just sat and listened to us, smiling all along, because that's what love does.

She got it. She knew how to make you feel loved, and through the way she lived, she taught her sons, her daughters, her grandkids, her great-grandkids and even her great-great-grandkids what it was to love. Now, that's a legacy worth leaving!

This week has been a tough week for all of us who knew Grammy, and for me, hearing of the loss of both Harry Nicholson and Dorothy Nicholson — two others who have not only affected my life through the church, but the lives of so many others I care for — has made it an even tougher week.

But at Grammy Great's funeral, I was blessed with the opportunity to share a few words, and as my seminary training has taught me, messages are best delivered in three points.

So, I discussed the three-prayer process that got me through the week.
The first prayer was one of, "Why?," asking God why He had to take these wonderful people from us — again, a bit selfish.

But it was quickly replaced with a prayer of, "Thank you," after realizing just how blessed I was to spend so many good times with my 97-year-old great-grandmother.

And finally, my prayers switched to ones with a communal tone: "Lord, give us all strength." It is only together that we can pull through such times.

Friends, this week my heart has been shattered. But I leave you all with the same blessing I've been wishing upon my close friends and family this week, hopeful that it will bring you encouragement today or that you'll hold on to it and be blessed by it another day:

When you find yourself asking why, may the Lord always bless you with a sense of thankfulness, flooding your mind with more positive memories than you can count. And when you find yourself in need of help, may you always see those surrounding you who are willing to help pull you through.

Grammy Great, we'll always love and miss you, but we hope your legacy, even a small piece of it, can live on through the way you've shaped our lives.

Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit.