Thursday, November 18, 2010

Goodbye, Grandma L

My Grandma Lentz passed away yesterday after a short bout with a very bad pneumonia.

At age 95, she still lived in the house where she and my Grandpa had raised five children. My Grandpa died about 15 years ago, and Grandma lived alone since then. She had an active garden, cooked great meals whenever we visited, and was always working on a craft project or a crossword puzzle. She lived so long and so well that I always thought she'd make it to at least 100.

Checking out the garden before I left for China

In many ways, Grandma Lentz reminds me of the woman in Proverbs 31:

She "set about her work vigorously... She watched over the affairs of her household and did not eat the bread of idleness." (v. 17, 27). I'm amazed at the productivity of her life. She went to Iowa Normal School (now UNI), and later put in time as a one-room school teacher and telephone switchboard operator. She worked as a county auditor for many years, probably one of the few working moms in local government back then. She saved the ballot bags from election day and was known for turning them into everything from clothes to quilts. She baked pies, canned tomatoes, and made awesome pickles... She painted, quilted, and embroidered. She taught me how to crochet. Even in her 90s, she would go out and rake the leaves if the yard guy didn't get there fast enough.

Presenting me with hand-embroidered dish towels

1990: Painting wooden ducks with the grandkids

"She opened her arms to the poor and extended her hands to the needy." (v. 20) My favorite example of her willingness to volunteer is Meals on Wheels. We got a kick out of the fact that she delivered meals to shut-ins who were years younger than she was. I think she continued driving around these meals until she was almost 90. She was a faithful church member and a good neighbor.

"Her children (and grandchildren) arise and call her blessed." (v. 28). I think all of Grandma's relatives are guilty of bragging about her at one time or another. In the twenty-six years I knew her, she changed very little. She was always working on projects, managing an active social calendar, staying involved with the church, and maintaining her sharp wit. She seemed to age about one year every decade. And somehow she managed to raise these yahoos, which only a truly blessed woman could do and maintain her sanity:

It's hard to know which memories to share here because so many of them are flooding my mind. Most visits to see Grandma in New Hampton shared a few elements: Playing cards or Skunk, rummaging around in the closets for some childhood memory of my dad and his brothers, firing a few rounds on the potato gun out back (which always worried Grandma), and being fed until we burst. When I was really little, a visit to Grandma's also meant that we could go down to the table in the basement and pick out a toy or decoration that Grandma and Grandpa had made together.

At Christmastime, the house always looked the same: the nativity scene and the small artificial Christmas tree sat on the same tables where they sat 50 years ago when my dad was growing up. I spent almost every Easter morning of my life hunting for eggs and candy in Grandma's house, sometimes getting the grand prize of a dollar for the win (or settling for the 25 cent consolation prize).

Every visit ended with Grandma stepping out the back door and raising her arm in the signature Lentz wave to see us off when we left her house. I will miss her, and I will miss the things I never had a chance to learn from her.

Goodbye, Grandma L.


  1. Well written - she was an amazing woman and a great example to live by. We'll all miss her!

  2. I'm so sorry, Alison! She sounds like a wonderful woman and a fantastic grandma!

  3. 95 years! What a remarkably long life, and to be so healthy and productive throughout, is truly a blessing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  4. You "captured" who Grandma was perfectly---what an inspiration to all of us who have known her!And have had her to call Mom, Grandma, or Ma! :)

  5. Alison, I can only echo the sentiments that have preceded me. So sorry to hear about your Grandma. Of course I don't know you and never knew her...but I remember how devistated I was when mine passed on :( I hope I'm as good a Grandma as ours were.

  6. So well writtin, Alison - that's the perfect picture of who Grandma was. Ironically, the reading we chose for the funeral is from Proverbs 31 - we all agreed that it reminded us of her and the way she lived her life. We'll miss you this weekend, and your uncles say they're looking for revenge an being referred to as "yahoos"!

  7. I'm so sorry about your Grandma, Alison. She was such a sweet & lovely woman. What a beautiful dedication you wrote... You and your entire family are in our prayers. Much Love!

  8. Two Grandmas gone in not very much time...

    thinking of you...


  9. I'm so sorry Alison. You and your family are in my prayers.

  10. what a precious tribute to your grandma!