In case we’ve never met, my name is Andrea. I’m Diane’s eldest granddaughter.
Diane had a heck of a time with her health over the last forty years, didn’t she? There’s no question—she was dealt a rough hand. But she also had a heck of a time making the most of those years with family and friends. I bet that if you close your eyes and picture my grandma, you see her smiling or laughing. You probably hear her answering the phone with a cheerful, “Yello,” or eating a late-night bowl of ice cream or popcorn with her eyes rolled back in her head, filled with glee; or maybe you hear her retelling a story with more animation and gusto than Lucille Ball, or maybe she’s beaming happily at her great-grandkids as they run around her living room. Time and time again, as years went on and her body continued to fail her in new and miserable ways, I think we can all agree that her shining personality remained intact. Diane was always still Diane.
She was a mother to two and a surrogate mother to many who crossed the threshold of the Schellenberg home over the years. She was a friend to hundreds and I swear she must’ve been cousins with millions. Second, third, fourth cousins, in Wisconsin, Georgia and Germany—she was in touch with them all! And she was a grandmother to four and a great-grandmother to two.
On a personal note, something I always appreciated about my Grandma is how she always made an effort to understand me as I grew up. When I was in elementary school, I remember her sitting down next to me while I browsed through some kind of teen magazine. She started pointing at pictures of boys saying, “Oh he’s cute.” I was SO embarrassed. But I knew she was just trying to connect with me.
When I was in middle school, Grandma Diane and Grandpa Wayne stayed with my brother and I at our house in Alabama while our parents were out of town. Unfortunately, a 13-year-old girl at the time, I entered a biological rite of passage that every girl must endure when my parents were gone. I called my mom to tell her what was happening and she told Grandma. I ran into the kitchen and started painting my nails, weeping from humiliation, praying she wouldn’t come upstairs and talk to me about it. I heard her coming up the stairs and I was filled with dread. She simply and casually strolled up to the kitchen table, sat down, grabbed a bottle of nail polish and started painting her nails and said, “This is a pretty color.” She couldn’t have approached it more perfectly. I made her promise not to tell grandpa, and she let me stay home from school with her for the rest of the week. We watched movies together and ate lots of junk food. At a time when I know my mom really wished she could’ve been there with me, I know she was thankful it was Grandma Diane who was there to go through it with me.
One Summer in college, I spent two weeks working on the hobby farm my grandparents shared with my Uncle Mike. I treasure the time I spent painting birdhouses and sheds with my Grandpa Wayne, gathering chicken eggs and chasing ducks underneath the car. But most of all, I treasure the memories of driving around Hector, Glencoe, and Hutchinson with Grandma Diane, the summertime sun beating into the car, windows down. She let me play all of my CDs because she wanted to hear what I liked. I mean, we listened to Mariah Carey, old NSync and other pop music, as well as some not-quite-as-terrible stuff like John Mayer and Jason Mraz. She hummed along even though she didn’t know the songs and tapped her hands on the steering wheel no matter how ridiculous or obscene the lyrics got. I made sure to play some old songs I knew she’d like too, like The Andrews Sisters, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. She oohed and aahed over the nostalgia those songs drew up in her mind of her teenage years and early years of marriage to Grandpa.
To me, she was a warm, loving, relentlessly caring grandma. To you, I hope she was just as warm, loving, and relentlessly caring in whatever role she played in your life. Or maybe she was basically just your primary contact for fine knit afghans, scarves and sweaters in a jiffy. If that’s true, that’s ok. She loved doing it.
Whoever my grandma was to you, one thing’s for sure—I know you’re really going to miss her. The world just won’t be as bright without her in it. But out of all the people in this room, there’s only one person who will miss her more than the rest of us combined. And that’s my grandpa.
My grandparents were married for nearly 60 years. In my lifetime, I’ve seldom come across another couple more interconnected at such a deep level. Grandma’s family truly became Grandpa’s closest of kin when they got married. Meeting Grandma changed everything for him. And really—it changed everything for her, too. I’ll let her tell the story in her own words:
“Schellie and I met around November 1956 at the YMCA in St. Paul at a club called, ‘The Club With No Name,’ which I was a member of. On Sunday nights we held dances. My friend Bunice had talked to some guys from her hometown of Fulda and told them about the dances. Well, Schellie, Bill and Buzz came to the dance that Sunday night. As the story goes, Bill and Schellie walked across the dance floor to ask Bunice to dance. Bill got there first so Schellie asked me. That was the start of something wonderful. He brought me back to my home that night and we have been together ever since. It has been a marriage with a lot of things happening.
First, Schellie did not ever propose to me. It went something like this: Schellie told me he loved me one night as we were parked in the country someplace. I told him I loved him and his reply was, ‘Well I better get you a ring.’ How romantic! But that is about as romantic as Schellie gets. On valentine’s Day I received my beautiful diamond ring. We were at a restaurant in St. Paul in Highland Park. We hadn’t known each other long but knew it was right.
We were married on August 25, 1957 on one of the hottest days. My sister Joy was my maid of honor, three of my girlfriends were bridesmaids: Bev, Carol and Gloria. Chuck Draeger flew home from the Navy to be Schellie’s best man. Schellie’s groomsmen were Buzz, Ron and Bill. Reverend Wolff married us at St. Matthews Lutheran Church on Lexington Avenue in St. Paul. Reverend Wolff said it was the prettiest wedding he’d seen at the church. It really was.”
…fast forward 50 years…through the births of two children, four grandkids, multiple health crises and challenges…Here’s what Grandma had to say about 50 years of marriage to Grandpa:
“This brings us to our 50th year of marriage. We are still as much or more in love than when we met that night at the YWCA. Yes, I guess it was love at first sight or very soon after. I will never be able to understand how Schellie keeps going like he does. Schellie is never without pain in his leg. Some nights become very difficult for him with the pain. Schellie is one in a million and I am so lucky that we found each other. We have gone through some difficult times in the past 50 years, with operations, sicknesses and normal aches and pains but we are dealing with it all.”
Grandpa was Grandma’s strength. He was her physical strength when she couldn’t do things on her own anymore and he was her mental and emotional example of strength when she encountered health challenges of her own later on in her life. We all heard her say many times, “I’ve got my marine. He can take care of me just fine.”
Grandma and Grandpa slept in a tiny double bed for their entire marriage. A DOUBLE BED. Some nights, I don’t even like to share my double bed with my yorkie. But they liked to be close. All the time. Right until the end. Two chairs side-by-side facing a TV, a room full of rambunctious grandkids tearing presents open on Christmas, a hospital bed, an open road with two kids in the backseat, and…the end of life. Together.
So if Grandpa and Grandma drew strength from each other—what was the source of their individual strength? Their faith in God sustained them through challenge after challenge. They continuously turned to their church and their pastor for guidance and comfort. Last Spring, when Grandma got sick with gout in all of her joints and the decision was made to transition into assisted living, I made her a booklet of index cards and wrote a Bible verse about hope on each one. She kept it on her bedside table and told me she read it every night. She held onto hope in Jesus. And because of that hope—I know I’ll see her again.
Isaiah 46:4 (NLT) says:
I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.
I may not know what it looks like where she is. I may have trouble really believing she’s actually there in heaven. I mean, what is Heaven, really? It’s so beyond what the human mind can fathom—it’s often difficult to have faith in its existence, isn’t it? But faith is the belief in what can’t be seen. So I pray for faith to believe. I pray for faith to believe that God will lovingly and mercifully carry me to my grave in the same way he carried my Grandma Diane. And until that day, I pray for the ability to have an attitude like Grandma’s. Bright. Shining. Positive. No matter how much I miss her. Not only would she want it that way, but it’s what God calls us to do.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (MSG) says:
And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.
My prayer is for all of us to truly find hope in Jesus and the ability to carry on without Diane—the evidence of his incredible love lies in the creation of her spirit, the life she was blessed to lead, and the merciful end she met with her Savior.
I’m going to wrap this up exactly how grandma would simply by saying, “Talk atcha later.”