Yesterday morning my Nanny took her last breath and said goodbye to her family. My nanny was one of the strongest women I know. She was the daughter of a dairy farmer in Minnesota. She grew up milking cows every morning and evening and consequently she had the strongest handshake of anyone I ever met. The mother of eight children and twenty some grandkids and a handful of great grandkids she had the patience of a saint. She taught me so many valuable lessons growing up and she gave me some of my fondest memories. For many she was a rock in a sometimes crazy life. She was someone you could always depend on. Quite simply she was the grandma everyone dreams of. She made the best pies, mashed potatoes and canned peaches and sewed some of the most amazing clothes and quilts. She loved my Poppi for over 60 years and stood by her man no matter what life brought them. As an Army nurse she selflessly served her country and I am sure brought comfort to every soldier she met. She never took a thing for granted and had a faith that could move mountains. She was the perfect teacher because her lessons were taught not through words but by example.
Nanny and Poppi raised their eight kids in a small house in Kent, Washington on a small farm where Nanny raised the kids, looked after the animals, grew a nourishing garden, cooked delicious yet practical meals and made their house a home. She worked around the clock to make sure her kids were fed, clean and healthy. She was the best mom and grandma a child could ask for. Growing up Nanny taught me so many valuable lessons. Below are just a few of the things I learned from my Nanny.
1) Have Faith: Nanny had faith that could move mountains. She went to church multiple times a week, prayed daily and loved others unconditionally. She never preached, but instead lived by example. She relied on God in everything she did. Simply put Nanny was saintly.
2) Frugality is an important life skill: Nanny was a saver and innovator. She could always find a few uses for the common household tool. She saved lots of things like rubber bands (which she made into a rubber band ball that was one of my favorite toys at her house), mayonnaise jars which held a variety of leftovers, old bath tubs and toilets for planters and even the smallest scraps of fabric (which were eventually made into her prized quilts she made for each grandchild). I have very fond memories of spending entire days driving from grocery store to grocery store to use her various coupons. Nanny was an extreme couponer WAY before it was cool!
3) Homemade food is better: Nanny always made the best food. She taught me how to make pie crust so it doesn’t fall apart or get sticky. She tried to teach me how to make her perfect texture mashed potatoes, but I still can’t make them taste like hers. When my sister and I would spend the night at Nanny’s we always looked forward to her canned peaches we got every night for dessert in the little white bowls that we got to eat with the baby spoons my mom used to use when she was a kid.
4) It’s not hard, you just have to do it: One of the last times I visited Nanny she was telling us all about how one of her family members would create beautiful needlework pieces. We told her that we always thought her quilts were amazing and we didn’t know how she did it all. Her response was classic: It’s not hard, you just gotta do it! That was truly the way nanny lived her life. She was a natural at so many things and the tasks that didn’t come naturally to her she simply applied her can do attitude and got it done. I can’t remember once hearing my Nanny complain or give up.
5) Sometimes a backrub is the best cure: Like many kids my sister and I often were sent to Nanny’s house when we stayed home from school sick. I loved going to Nanny’s house because it was always so relaxing. Nanny was a healer in every respect. She knew that love went a long way in making her patients feel better. I loved sitting with her on the big blue couch with my head laying on the heat pad (I had a lot of ear aches when I was little and the heat pad felt good on my ears) while she read her bible and did her daily devotionals. After she was done she would give me a backrub. Her backrubs were the best I have ever had. It was more like a tickle and still to this day I love any back rub that reminds me of Nanny’s! At the end of a day at Nanny’s I always felt better.
6) Take care of your teeth and drink lots of water: Nanny always made sure we brushed our teeth and would remind us often that she still had all her teeth and she didn’t have any cavities. She always had sugar free gum and candies in her pantry because sugar is bad for your teeth. Nanny also always had water with her. No matter where she went she had a tuperware (because plastic bottles are wasteful) water bottle. She took it everywhere and always made sure she finished three of the them by the end of the day. I wish I could keep track of a water bottle like she did.
7) Save your Pennies: Under the counter in Nanny’s kitchen she kept a pillowcase where she put all her spare change. One time I asked her what she was going to spend the money on and she told me she saved the money for her and Poppi to take vacations. I now save all my spare change for vacations for Ross and I.
8) Dance: Nanny and Poppi danced through their life together, all the way to the end. Even when Poppi became mostly blind and Nanny had a hard time walking, they would still get in a short dance when they got the chance, Dance was a hobby they shared together and they were very good at it. They knew pretty much every ballroom dance and were pretty darned good square dancers too. One of my favorite things to do at Nanny’s house was to go through the basement bedroom closet where Nanny kept all her dance outfits (all sewn by Nanny). I loved looking at all the designs. I will never forget the time Nanny came down to the basement and taught all us cousins how to do the chicken dance. The chicken dance always reminds me of Nanny!
9) Stand by Your Man : Nanny loved my Poppi more than I think anyone knows. Even at his worst my Nanny stood by Poppi and encouraged him. I never saw my Nanny get angry with my Poppi. I am sure it happened but my Nanny wasn’t one to hold a grudge and was saintly in her ability to just let things go. The love story of Nanny and Poppi is one I never get tired of hearing and has always been one of my favorites!
10) Invest in your Family: Nanny spent the majority of her life raising her family and caring for others. She raised eight beautiful children. It wasn’t always easy. She lost my uncle to cancer when he was a young adult, and although I never knew him, she would often tell me stories about him and in doing so kept his memory alive. Her children have been incredibly successful, many of them entering the medical profession, undoubtedly because of the example she set and the sacrifices she made. The investment she made in her family is more valuable than any investment money could have bought. Her amazing family loved her through her very last breath. My Nanny was an incredibly humble lady. She never bragged or boasted about any of her accomplishments. However, whenever she spoke of her kids, grandkids and great grandkids you could tell they were her pride and joy and she was proud of each and every single one of them. Nanny made every one she met feel special and loved.
I will miss my Nanny so much. It is hard to lose a lady as genuine as my Nanny was. I hope that one day I will be as great of a mother as she was. I hope that I can learn to be as humble as she was and love as selflessly as she has. She has left behind a beautiful family all who will miss her very much but will keep her alive in our memories. I love you Nanny! Thank you for all the wisdom and love over the years!
Below is a video I took one of the last times I visited Nanny. We had just got our milk cows so I was interested in learning about Nanny’s life growing up on a dairy farm in Minnesota. Until she enrolled in nursing school Nanny worked on the family farm where she milked around 30 cows every morning and night. They did not have electricity in the barn (or the house) so everything was done by hand. No wonder Nanny was always so tough and never complained!