Friday, October 28, 2016

“Service To Others Is The Rent You Pay For Your Room Here On Earth”

Do you ever find that there’s something or someone you want to write about, but you just can’t find the right words?  Or the right tone?  Then, when you’re not looking for it all, you find something that’s perfect?

That’s what happened to me when it came to writing about Nick’s grandmother, a.k.a. GrandMommy.  She died on January 11th of this year.  I know, it took me a while to write about her.  She was an intensely private person in some ways, and her illness I think is best described as cruel.

I was perusing quotes on the internet (just something I do sometimes) when I found this one from Muhammad Ali, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”  I think it’s perfect for GrandMommy, and anyone who knew her can say her rent was paid in full.

Nick was incredibly close to GrandMommy.  She helped raise him and shape the person he became.  Please don’t think I’m dismissing Nick’s mom by saying that.  She would agree with me.  She was pretty young when Nick was born, so he spent a lot of time with his grandparents.  I totally lucked out in the Mother-In-Law department.  It just happens that one of the things we agree on is that Nick gets a lot of good from his grandmother.  I don’t know whether that’s Nature, Nurture, or a combination.

I hesitate to use the word “activist” to describe her because I think she was quieter and less obtrusive than that.  “Involved” might be a better word.  She always knew what was going on in the community, and was constantly working to improve things.  She was never the type of person to sit back and say “someone should do something about that”.  When she saw a need, she did she what she could to fill it.

GrandMommy was involved in various causes, but never as the loud, in your face, attention grabbing person.  She often worked behind the scenes.  Quietly.  She was very respectful of everyone’s right to an opinion, even if it happened to be different from her own.

She also had an independent streak.  She lectured me numerous times on the importance of maintaining my own identity outside of being Nick’s wife, of having my own money (separate bank account), and not being too dependent on another person.

Because Nick was so close to GrandMommy, and because we lived in the same town, I was fortunate enough to develop a close relationship with her too.  She’s the one who taught me how to have a vegetable garden, and more importantly, showed me that I actually love growing things.  I will always think of her when I plant things.

GrandMommy was the type of person who never wanted a lot of fanfare for herself.  Being the center of attention was not her thing.  In accordance with that, there was no traditional service.  Instead, we opted for Jane’s Day of Service.  Nick’s mom chose the date, Fat Tuesday (because GrandMommy loved Mardi Gras), and everyone did the service project of their choice.

I think it was the perfect tribute for her, and I hope it’s something that becomes an annual tradition. Not dictating a specific project honored her beliefs of everyone doing something, and it allowed people to participate in ways that were meaningful to them.  Nick and I chose to take food and drinks to the hospice house GrandMommy had been in, and to the hospice house my Granny had been in. Other people did things like take food and toys to children’s homes, donate money to various charities, give blood, and volunteer their time with various organizations.  It was all about service to others.  


  1. Just looking at her, you can see a gentleness about her. Neat that she was able to be such a good influence to not only Nick, but later to you. Sounds a bit feisty too with her advice to you to have your own bank account, etc. Progressive thinker she was!

    I would imagine she is much missed by all who loves her. Great way to honor her too with the day of service. I too hope it becomes an annual event!


  2. She was well loved, and for good reason!

    We lost "Grandie" this year. She was 89 and is so very missed.

  3. Getting things done in a respectful manner is how many more should go about it, world would be a better place. That is a great way to tribute her indeed.

  4. What a lovely story. And it's true, sometimes the perfect way to write something up has to come to you when you're ready for it.

  5. A day of service is a wonderful way to honour someone. She sounds like a remarkable lady.


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