Independence, MO – Kate and I attended the funeral Friday of an extended family member. My cousins’ grandmother touched many lives during her 93 years, and her sons’ eulogies got me thinking about how my grandparents shaped me.
Author Nelson Henderson once said “the true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” By his measure, my grandparents sewed a forest.
My Grandpa Beem’s life of philanthropy continues to guide me. His work ethic was exemplary, and his willingness to put others’ needs above his impressed me at any early age.
After my biological father died in his early 30s, Grandpa Beem had much to mourn. Instead, he channeled his grief into good deeds, including the hundreds of wall clocks he made for and gave those he admired. One hangs above the desk from which I’m writing this column.
Grandma Beem taught me to manage my money. I remember asking at a young age why there was always a stack of envelopes in the shadowbox wall between her dining room and kitchen.
She said they were the month’s bills.
“I write the day they’re due on the back of the envelope and mail them several days ahead of time,” she said. “Why not keep your money in your account earning interest as long as you can?”
My mom’s father left her mother shortly after their fourth child was born. But her mother, whom the grandkids affectionately called Granny, made a deep and lasting impression on me.
In my early years, I spent many weekday evenings with Granny. Mom returned to college after my biological father died, and I stayed with her after school and on weekends.
Granny taught me many things. Frugality tops the list.
“There’s still a lot of good left in that,” I remember her saying when I complained about last season’s winter coat or a skateboard I thought was past its prime. Granny’s Depression-era childhood guided her choices and the lessons she taught me.
Mom married my dad, Terry Snapp, when I was 6. In addition to a great father, I got two awesome grandparents.
While Granny and Grandma Beem taught me to be a good steward of my money and personal property, Grandma Snapp encouraged my health. She was the most sensible eater and best exerciser of all my grandparents – though she also made the best cupcakes.
Every time we visited Grandma Snapp, who was always up on the latest exercise trends, whole food benefits and health supplements, she greeted us with a plate of “rabbit food” – radishes, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots washed, neatly cut and ready to eat. A regular walker, she also set a great exercise example.
Grandpa Snapp taught me to manage my time. “You always have to have a system,” I still remember him saying.
Which explains why, no matter his age or vocation, he awoke every day at 6:14 a.m. “It’s part of my daily routine and gets me started on the right foot,” he said.
My grandparents taught me much of what I needed to live a productive, abundant life: Philanthropy. Money management. Frugality. Healthy living. Time management.
They also taught me the power a disciplined commitment to one’s principles has to positively influence others’ lives.
Which is the greatest gift one can give.