Monday, March 24, 2008
Dorothy Campbell -- 1912 to 2008
My grandmother passed away on Saturday evening after a six-week struggle with a broken pelvis and two bouts of pneumonia, plus several other issues that had been going on for some time. My father and I were with her when she left, and it was a very peaceful passing, which was a blessing. As my dad put it, "she just stopped." We will miss her so, so much, but it is a joy to know that we will see her again someday, and she completely deserves this rest after 95 years of serving others and, well, working all the time to keep her house (and, later, her little part of my parents' house) clean!
So, just briefly, I want to honor her here by telling you all -- because few of you, if any, knew her -- what a really special, terrific lady she was. She wasn't Mother Theresa, she wasn't Billy Graham, but she lived her life in service to God by serving those she loved, and those whom God placed in her neighborhood, and that, in every way, is just as important:
Granny grew up in East Texas, and, of course back then things weren't as cushy as they are today. I remember her telling me she used to play out by the "crick" (creek) with her younger sister, and she (Granny) was a tree-climber. She wasn't afraid of much, either, and was sometimes the only one who could get the farm horses to behave themselves! When she was in her teens her mother developed breast cancer, and Granny had to help her father take care of her. Granny didn't realize it, but this would be a recurring theme in her life.
She had two children, only one of whom survived to birth, my mother. She and my mom were complete opposites in so many ways -- Granny was down to earth, practical, pretty unsentimental, and Mom lived in a world of make-believe when she was little, and is extremely sentimental. But that didn't stop them from being the best of friends. In fact, in the last eighteen years or so, since Granny moved in with my parents, I would say that she and Mom were more like sisters, definitely best friends. Their bond was so close it was just fun to be around them. That didn't mean they didn't have their spats, but they could never stay mad at each other for long.
When my grandfather -- who was ten years older -- had colon surgery in his sixties and ended up with a colostomy that had to be cleaned every day, Granny took that job on with love and dedication like only she could. She tended him every day for fifteen years, and took on the additional stress of helping him through the colon cancer that finally took his life. To her it was a privilege, a way of serving her husband and her Lord. Not that there weren't moments of despair and exhaustion, but after spending some time with her Lord, with His refreshing and grace, she rolled up her sleeves and went right back to work with the same love and compassion as ever.
Even in these later years she helped my mother, who has several chronic health issues, in many ways, both large and small. She knew how to do the little things that made life more than just "getting through the day" for Mom. She loved to watch the Spurs play basketball, she enjoyed watching Charles Stanley's sermons each week for her spiritual boost, she kept in touch with her church in Lamesa, Texas, contributed to it and to the Methodist Children's Home regularly, made it a habit to talk to friends and family on the telephone as often as possible and kept up with the world through national news media, the Lamesa Press Reporter and the Deport Times.
Granny was a prayer-warrior. She faithfully prayed for her whole family, from her daughter and son-in-law (who loved her like a second mother), to her three grandchildren and their spouses, five great-grands and two great-great grands, as well as her other relatives, friends and even strangers whose needs were brought to her attention. She loved all of us unconditionally, even when we made colossal mistakes in our lives. She was incredibly humble, and never could understand it when people would talk about how wonderful she was (she would hate this tribute!). She read her Bible daily, and she lived her walk rather than simply talking it.
She was feisty, strong in spirit and will, tough, determined and you definitely did not want to question her when she knew what was right (because she WAS right!) or what needed to be done. She wasn't a "mushy" type of grandma -- she wasn't afraid to discipline us if we got out of line! But she was infinitely loving, compassionate and opened her heart to her family, friends and neighbors, to the needy, even extending that care to whatever wounded or hungry animals might come her way. She, as the saying goes, was Jesus in so many ways to all those in her sphere of influence.
So, as cliched as all this may sound, the world has definitely been diminished by her loss. But I think all of us who were blessed to grow up with her, or to be her friends, all who spent time with her couldn't help but be infused with some of her strength, her wit, her common sense, and most of all her caring and her attitude of service. Quiet, un-self-seeking service was what Dorothy Campbell was all about. As Mother Theresa said, which so aptly describes my Granny: "We are not all called upon to do great things, but we are all called upon to do small things with great love."