We were trying to check in our luggage and our airplane tickets hit a major snag. The funeral had drained us emotionally. We were tired but ready to return to England. Our stay there had been disrupted with the death of my Great Grandmother Nan. My Grandpa and Nanny-Jo (my grandmother) had debated returning. I recall Nany-Jo saying that she wanted to go to the funeral. She wanted to honor Nan’s memory. My Grandpa, a man who was stoic and decisive was grieving. He had retreated into himself quietly dealing with his grief.
As a grandchild, it was an unusual experience to live with my grandparents in another country. I had gotten to know them through a few sleepovers, Sunday dinners and holidays. However, living under their roof was a different experience.
In my narcissistic teenage mind, I had painted a picture of who my grandparents were. My Grandpa was in charge and the head of the house. Nanny-Jo I viewed as the quint essential 1950’s housewife: submissive, with no ambissions outside the household. I put her in a small box, perfect for holding a two-dimensional character. I saw how Nanny-jo would make her homemade chicken noodle soup while Grandpa would watch sports on television and figured that summed her up as a person.
Standing at the ticket counter my Grandparents, my Aunt Kari and I were shocked to find that our tickets back to England would cost twice as much as we originally planned. With my Grandpa at the counter I was certain his temper would come out and he would articulately roar until the ticketing clerk gave in submission. My grandpa, tired and still grieving couldn’t face another battle. He started to speak and then getting frustrated stepped away from the counter. Panic struck me. Would I not be able to go back to my beloved England? I had only been there a few weeks before we came back and I had so much more I wanted to see. Nanny-Jo remained at the counter.
Perhaps it was the awakening adult in me, but I didn’t see really my grandmother until this moment. She politely but firmly continued to talk to the ticketing agent until they could figure out what the mix up was and how to resolve it. The debate with the agent continued. She did not budge, she did not submit, and she didn’t raise her voice. Several minutes passed. Finally, my grandmother and the ticketing agent had found a way to make our return trip possible. My grandpa returned to the counter.
As I observed the scene before me that small box in which I put Nanny-jo tore open. All those years of watching her I hadn’t seen what amazing strength and compassion she has. Little actions became enormous. Action like while she made her soup she would patiently talk to each of her grandchildren to hear their thoughts and feelings. She would make sure that her home was comfortable for anyone who visited it. How she perused a college degree and continued to better herself but never at the expense of her family.
We boarded the plane and returned to England. Nanny-Jo continued to surprise me. Grandpa was still grieving and was content to sit in the little Nottingham brick house (the only one without lace curtains) until it was time to return home. Nanny-Jo insisted that we go to Paris. As we walked through the Louvre, the paintings called to my Grandpa’s artist soul. You could say Monet and Renoir stopped him from retreating further into his grief. Honestly it was Nanny-Jo. She knew it’s what he needed to move beyond his loss.
I realized that Nanny-Jo wasn’t submissive she was compassionate. Her driving force in life is to serve others and make them feel better. Whether it’s small things like a quick hug and her classic saying “I love you more than Pie” (by the way it’s impossible not to smile after she says this to you). Or her making a big gesture (like the time she bought the handmade rag doll I was selling online because I was sad that no one was purchasing it).
From my grandmother, I learned that great strength comes from compassion. Showing compassion is truly a Christ like attribute and I am thankful for her lifelong example of it.
Do you have someone in your life that has taught you the principle of compassion or some of the other attributes of Christ? I invite you to learn more about Jesus Christ this Easter season. Please visit Mormon.org to learn more about the #princeofpeace . There you’ll learn some of His other attributes and hear more stories of how people incorporate them into their lives.