My grandmother’s funeral was on Saturday, and I had the privilege of sharing my memories of her at a memorial. To learn more about my grandmother, see the beautiful obituary my mother wrote for her.
There are two things in my life today for which I give at least partial credit to Grandmom:
- My understanding of hospitality
- My addiction to coffee
As you might suspect, these two are closely related. Let me explain.
I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t coffee at my grandmother’s house. I don’t mean in the can ready to be brewed. I mean in the pot ready to drink. I can still hear the sound of the percolator, which as a kid I was convinced the lid was going to come off of at any minute.
I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing my first taste of coffee was brewed in that percolator.
It always seemed to me that the coffee was ready for others, a sign of welcome and hospitality. It was there when Grandpop came home for lunch. It was there for when one of her sisters would stop by. It was there for whomever may visit whenever they decided. And because my grandmother never drove, she was almost always home to welcome anyone who came.
Every Friday night she hosted the family. We all went there. I hung around aunts, uncles, cousins, a great-aunt and uncle, and more at my grandmother’s house, gathered for the most part around her table. And no matter how many people were there, there was always room for more.
Chairs were pulled out of the living room or garage, and people squeezed a little closer together. Sometimes the kids had the sit on our parents’ laps or stand at the table, but there was always room even for us.
We watched the adults play cards, which is how I learned to play pinochle. I remember listening to dad and Grandpop talk about cars, and listening in on what was happening in the world of the family.
We were there, welcome at the table as long as we wanted and it felt great.
That’s the thing about hospitality. It feels good to be accepted, to belong, to have a seat at the table.
Other houses in our extended family had more stuff—inground pools and the latest video games—but I always preferred Friday nights at Grandmom’s, or a holiday in the backyard throwing horseshoes.
So, I guess there’s another thing my grandmother taught me.
- Enjoy and share what you have.
I guess I always knew my grandparents didn’t have a lot, and that things were sometimes really hard. Yet, they were the ones to be around.
I remember going to the flea market with them on a Saturday—there’s nothing better for a kid. I remember hearing my grandfather whistling to the backdoor at lunchtime—he was always whistling, and wasn’t allowed in the front door with his workboots on. I remember the coffee, cards, conversation, and my grandmother’s laugh. Not everything was easy, but that didn’t mean there weren’t things to enjoy.
When Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God in the Bible, he often uses the image of a banquet. He told stories about parties and celebrations. The Kingdom of God is like a wedding banquet, he said. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who threw a party, he says in another place.
And when the time came to leave the disciples and us something to remember him by, Jesus used the table of the Last Supper and what would become the sacrament of Holy Communion. Around that table, on their last night together, Jesus told the disciples they would gather again with him around the table one day.
It’s pretty easy to picture Kingdom of God tables as fancy. But for me, I think about Grandmom’s table on a Friday night with the family gathered around. You can hear the percolator clunking in the background. There’s conversation, laughter, and maybe some pinochle. But most of all, there is a sense that each of us belongs there.
So, today I give thanks to God for the life of my grandmother, and I look forward to being back around the table with her one day.