She was 29. Younger than I am now. Two little girls and a life ahead of her.
Then polio knocked on the door of her body, entered unbidden, and left her in a hospital bed paralyzed from the waist down.
My grandmother suddenly faced a future very different than what she had imagined.
A pastor came and spoke in hushed tones. Then he shared powerful words that changed the course of her heart, “Frances,” he said, “You can choose to let this make you bitter or better.”
She chose better.
I don’t think she realized it at the time, but by choosing it for herself she chose it for the rest of us too.
My grandmother lived until the age of 74 with a twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her face.
I never heard her complain or speak an unkind word about anyone.
She ran a Christian bookstore with my Grandpa Hollie. People used to ask her where she found her joy…and she loved to tell them.
This Christmas it will be ten years since she slipped into eternity in her sleep.
Ten years–and I can still hear her voice. She whispers to me in life’s difficult moments, a hint of laughter around the edges, “Choose better, Holley,” she reminds me.
I learned from my grandmother that gratitude is a decision. It’s also a gift; it multiplies and spreads to those around us.
Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes.
This Thanksgiving when the food is on the table and plates are passed around I know I’ll feel full before we ever take the first bite–overflowing with thankfulness for a woman who made a choice long ago that still nourishes our family today.
Thank you, Nana, for choosing better.
God, give us the courage to do the same.
Update: I’m with my family today and I carried the laptop out to the breakfast table to surprise them with this story. We gathered around and looked into the glow, each of us lost in our memories. Then my grandfather said, “Well, you know Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday–that’s when they told her she could come home from the hospital for good.”
My Mom snatched a tattered piece of paper from a drawer titled “What Thansgiving Means to Me” written by my Nana. In it she tells the same story I do here and expresses her gratitude. Then she closes with the beautiful sentence below. I pray her words bring joy to your heart and family just as they have ours…
“May we always remember to be grateful for today, to forget yesterday, and leave the tomorrows for God to give as He sees fit.”
p.s. My much-loved Grandpa Hollie (in these photos) is having surgery tomorrow. Will you please pray for him?
Who are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?Leave a Comment
Kristen - Moms Sharpening Moms says
This post brought tears to my eyes! What a wonderful phrase to sum up how to turn those lemons of life into lemonade…choose better over bitter. I will remember that one!
I’d be honored to pray for your Grandpa, too.
I am thankful for Jesus and for more loved ones around me than I deserve. I’m also thankful for you folks at (in)courage! Your posts are heaven-sent blessings. Happy Thanksgiving!
Father God, on behalf of Grandpa Hollie, I ask that You would remind all the doctors and nurses that it is You who have appointed them to work through for Grandpa Hollie. May Grandpa Holley and his family be comforted in this fact. Lord, God, grant him an efficient and speedy recovery as well please dear Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Holley, are you name after your grandpa?
Just prayed for your dear Grandpa Hollie, thank you for sharing the story of your sweet Nana…may I never forget to choose better over bitter.
Good Luck Grandpa Hollie! My thoughts & prayers are with you for a quick recovery!
Southern Gal says
My grandmother lived a life full of tragedy and heartache. She lived it with a smile on her face and joy in her heart. She inspired me to live better and not bitter.
I am thankful for her influence on my life. Thankful that my children were able to know her for many years before she went home.
Thank you for sharing.
I’m sitting in my work cubicle with tears in my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. How full would our lives be if we chose to live “better” every day? I feel inspired and challenged to make that change. Thank you!
Thanks Holley..This a perfect reminder of how to live life. What a beautiful tribute to your Grandma as well. Your Grandpa Holli has my prayers. Wishing you blessings for Thanksgiving.
How very special, Holley! Like you, I am blessed with wonderful grandparents who are a joy to be around because of they live the Gospel through even their smallest actions. I will certainly be praying for your Grandpa Hollie.
deb @talk at the table says
I am so inspired by this. How to be such a woman.
I pray to live a life of choosing better.
I pray for your grandfather.
Thanking you , Holley.
Oh wow! What a beautiful story to savor with my morning cup! Inspired.
Lovely! Thank you! I add this post to my Gratitude Journal!
A Simple Country Girl says
Such shining words tainted by His wisdom and love … especially this
“leave the tomorrows for God”
Praying for your grandpa.
Praying for your sweet Grandpa! And thanks for sharing this story of your Grandmother. Just what I needed today. 🙂
Thank you, Holley, for sharing this story of love! I could relate, losing my sweet Mom a little over 10 years ago, too. Happy TG!
So beautiful!! I wrote some quotes in my journal so I can always remember and pass it on!
Holly, you look like your grandmother. You have the same cheeks as her! 🙂
This was just so amazing. Thank you!
~Praying for your grandpa~
~Grace & Peace says
What struck me at first was how you look so much like your grandma. Then after I finished reading, I realized she was not only beautiful on the outside but also inside. What a blessing she must have been to you and your family. I will lift up your sweet grandpa, your namesake, in prayer. May he be surrounded by compassionate doctors and may God give them the wisdom as they do the surgery.
May God bless you and your family as you have blessed each and everyone of us.
What a great reminder to us all of how God answers just what we need in HIS time! Tears came to my eyes as I could imagine what she endured, and with God’s blessings for her and her life.
I pray for your sweet Grandpa~blessings in healing quickly.
Have a wonderful holiday and remember those who have passed!
Paula Jean says
Absolutely beautiful! Thank you!
Beautiful – praying for your grandpa today too!
I’m thankful for the love of my husband.
Mary @ Passionate Perseverance says
I write this with tears in my eyes and a heart filled with gratitude. These past few weeks have been so difficult at times. Our profoundly disabled daughter just came home from the hospital. She was in isolation with the swine flu which was complicating her other medical issues. I spent two days with her praying over her for God’s healing and He has so graciously allowed that to happen. This Thanksgiving I am grateful for health and healing. I am grateful that my entire family will be sitting down together at one table. I am grateful for reminders of the goodness of life by wonderful people like your Grandmother. Indeed today I chose BETTER!! Blessing and Grace Holley!
FaithBarista Bonnie says
Holley, I will be praying for your Grandpa. It’s on my prayer list.
What a powerful, precious testimony Holley. It is amazing what a life lived with such grace can “say” to everyone it touches.
I have a husband, who has been dealt blows (health problems) that could certainly have made him bitter. Like your dear Nana, he spends his time serving everyone else and never complaining about the devastating health problems he endures. His life shines like a brilliant star – reflecting the light of the One He loves so dearly.
I will be praying for your Grandpa.
Deb Stubbeman says
I enjoyed your store. I will definitely pray for your grandpa. It’s so great when people make choices to see the positive in difficult situations. Being negative doesn’t help. I’m thankful for our Heavenly Father and for my dad raising me to be a positive person.
Happy Thanksgiving and God Bless!
Cindy Fox says
Thank you for sharing such a personal story with us. I certainly want to live better and not bitter. I have prayed for your grandfather’s surgery. Thank you for allowing us to join you in prayer for your precious loved one! God bless you richly! Happy Thanksgiving!
Sweet, beautiful story. What a blessing for you to share – thank you.
Heather Gemmen Wilson says
Beautiful! As my kids and I always say, “I love happy people.” You can spot them anywhere.
Your beautiful words today help put our lives into perspective. Thank you for reminding us of the beautiful gift of life itself!
The stories you ladies share always, always, touch my heart & bring tears to my eyes. How amazing God works through each of us.
Courtney @ nesting instincts says
This is so beautiful! I pray that I will always remember to choose “better”. What a rich family legacy you have! Thank you for sharing it!
whoooo, this gives me goosebumps 🙂
Holley Gerth says
Thanks so much for all of your kind words and prayers! My Grandpa came through surgery very well today and is doing great! I’m a grateful girl! (: Blessings to all of you…
The Nester says
Prayed for your Grandpa today via a tweet I saw and then when I came here and realized that he is the husband of the grandmother you wrote about in your book I feel like I know your whole sweet family.
Grandpa Hollie. How sweet is that?
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