This tribute was given at the funeral service held on Friday, December 29, 2017 for my Grandma, Maxine Dimick.
It’s a gift to be in your company this morning, to celebrate the life of my Grandma, Maxine Dimick. As many of you know, my Grandma loved words and stories; she loved to correspond but far preferred the pen to the keyboard. So while Grandma brought her vibrant physical presence to holidays, vacations, and – in my case – weekly childcare visits, she also accompanied us grandkids through life with an abiding handwritten presence. First in words printed with the precision of a kindergarten teacher, and later in her enthusiastic and confident cursive, Grandma relayed the stories, values, and love that helped to sustain us.
My grandma wrote in printing.
My grandma delighted in watching children learn, grow, and discover the world around them. To that end, we grandchildren each received photo books documenting our preschool life with Grandma and Grandpa. Each page held a snapshot, usually of one of us playing, “helping,” or just living, with a hand-printed sentence or two. For example, there’s a photo of my 13-month-old self sitting in a high chair next to my Grandpa, haphazardly feeding myself with a spoon. It’s captioned, “Lunchtime! My mommie sat in this high-chair when she was a little girl.
”In making these photo books, Grandma was not just helping us learn to read; she was also helping us learn our own stories. She was showing us that we were rooted in family, held as precious, and simply enjoyed.
Grandma’s printing also represented structure. While she and Grandpa made it clear that their love for us was unconditional, it was also clear that a certain standard of behavior was expected. Outdoor voices were to be kept outdoors; conversation was welcomed, but interruption was not; diverse ideas were considered, but respectful exchange was required. In their home and through their expectations, Grandma and Grandpa created a safe container for us. The boundaries they set were intentional, not arbitrary; within them, there was space to grow.
In Grandma’s printing, then, lies a simplicity:
The world is a wondrous place to discover.
Human connections are precious.
Not all behavior is acceptable, but all people are.
My grandma also wrote in cursive.
As we grandkids grew into adulthood, our correspondence from Grandma didn’t slow, but the handwriting changed. A prolific and conscientious correspondent, my Grandma wrote lengthy letters, short notes, and lovingly selected birthday cards in technically competent cursive that was at once elegant and breezy. I remember her reflecting, half-apologetically, that “I don’t suppose I have much earth-shaking news to share, but a note doesn’t have to be deep, just chatty!”
She understood, I think, that the depth lay simply in making the connection. Her notes meant that we were remembered, appreciated as unique, held as precious.
Despite Grandma’s humble appraisal of her letters, however, they were not without intellectual and spiritual depth. Among accounts of family and neighborhood goings-on, Grandma sprinkled musings about ethics and current events, Bible verses she found meaningful, and prayers for those in need – which usually included us!
Grandma’s was an examined faith; she and Grandpa read devotions daily – after breakfast and very slowly, it seemed, when I visited them as a kid – and engaged in thoughtful, critical discussion about how to best reflect God’s grace in their daily lives. While quiet reflection was less than entertaining to a child anticipating a morning of play, its value became clear as I grew. Even as Grandma hand-wrote her life, she recognized a loving God as the ultimate author.
Simple and structured like hand printing, unbroken and flowing like script, Grandma’s love held us grandkids as we grew. Her passing, then, invites all of us to consider the handwriting of our own lives, its balance of structure and fluidity. It invites us to use our words to build wonder, share joy, engage our minds and spirits, and above all, hold one another as precious.
My Grandma was a gift to all of us; may we continue to be gifts to one another.
Grandma and me in June 1981.
Grandma and me on December 1 2017, my 39th birthday.