As I was preparing my talk for Grandma Rose’s funeral, the memories flooded my soul and the words kept coming and coming. By the time I was done, I had a talk that was going to be way too long for anyone to listen in one sitting. I also learned that I was going to be limited to 7 minutes to talk. This obviously was a problem.
I struggled with only saying a portion of what I had written because it felt like I was not presenting the whole work. I finally decided to compromise. I would keep my talk short and only say a very small portion of what I had written. So that I could still get the whole work out there, I decided to publish the whole of what I had written in this email.
I do apologize for the length, but it is here for you in case you wanted to read it.
Here is what I was going to say, in its entirety:
If anyone else had asked me to get up here and speak at Grandma Rose’s funeral, I would have politely said that I did not think that I would be able to do that because with the emotions that are sure to come, it would be too hard for me to get through something like this. Grandma, however was adamant that I speak at her funeral service and I didn’t want the last thing she asked me to do to be something to say “no” to so here we are. I will do my best to be the voice for all the family and for everyone she knew and loved on this solemn occasion. There are so many memories that I will not be able to speak of and certainly all of you have your own memories with Rose that I do not even know about. Hopefully, we can all share those later as we remember this amazing woman. I will do my very best to have the focus to get through this since I know that is what she wanted.
I want to start by giving a special thanks, on behalf of the family, to some very special people. Pastor Beth, thank you so much for all the support and encouragement you have provided to Rose and Jill, especially in her last months. Grandma loved you more than you may ever know. Kim, Suzy, Jackie, Jesse, and Sandi, the nurses and caretakers who took care of Rose in her last months. You eased her pain and more importantly, your kindness and friendship to her made her last months on earth as good as they possibly could have been. You all are truly a blessing to your profession and those you care for. I want to give a special thanks to Joyce King for making your wonderful soup and sandwiches and bringing them for us so we did not have to worry about cooking. Grandma could not eat very many things towards the end, but she always loved eating your soup. I did too! I want to give a big thanks to all the friends and family who came to visit Rose, talk to her on the phone, or send a card or letter to her. It really meant the world to her.
I want to give a special thanks to my mom, Jill, who went way above and beyond to help her mother and be there for everything. Literally, your life became taking care of Rose. All the Dr. visits, all the bandage changes, all the treatments. Using all of your strength to life her from place to place. You went months without sleeping in your own bed. In the last few weeks, you would get up at 4 am to give Rose her treatments. The only reason Rose was able to spend her last days at home, on the farm, was because of you. It is truly a beautiful thing to see a child taking care of their parent when that parent needs them the most. It is a clear picture of the circle of life and of God’s love pouring through. Make no mistake, you were Rose’s angel.
Grandma Rose lived a beautiful life. She had a wonderful marriage and three daughters that she loved with her whole heart. She would tell me later that even though she loved having her girls, she did wish that she would have had a son somewhere along the way. Careful what you wish for right? My parents divorced when I was very young and mom was trying to balance her life of being a single mom and trying to do her career as a hair deathstylist. It was a lot for such a young mother. Grandma would tell of the time when our lives really connected. Mom had her hair salon on the porch of grandma’s house. Mom would try to have me out in the shop and watch me while she was working. One day, I must have been acting up and proved too much for my mom to handle in the moment. Grandma would later say, “I heard the door open and then slam and here was this little boy, sitting on the floor crying. It was then that I knew it was time for me to step in.” Neither of us knew it at that time, but in that very moment Rose had finally got the son, me, she had always wanted, and I was blessed to have gained another parent.
I might have been more than grandma bargained for as she set about teaching me discipline and how to behave. We were both hard-headed and stubborn and to say that we butted heads on several occasions would be a giant understatement. She had to be very tough on me to break through to me and make me realize that I needed to act in a more obedient manner. I had a lot of energy and she knew that the best way to deal with that was to put me to work and we had the perfect setting in the farm that we lived on. Through those next two decades, grandma helped mom raise me to be a person that was kind, caring, somewhat of a gentleman, and a person who was willing to work hard and be coachable. I do not want to paint a picture that I was only raised by mom and grandma. My dad, John, stepmother Sandy, Grandpa Bob Marsau and Grandma Joan, also were very influential in raising me when I was with them. Their influence has meant the world to me. The reality is, that at that point in my life, I spent the majority of my time with my mom and I was a lot for one person to handle. Grandma Rose stepped in and gave my mom the help she needed. In fact, I can safely say, that in those years, I spent more time and had more influence from Grandma Rose than anyone else.
If I can be totally blunt, I was out of control when she took charge of me and she helped transform me into the person I am today. I can also say, that she saved my life by bringing me back to a path that would allow me to succeed in life. She also steered me towards have a real relationship with God. To say “thanks” really would not give what she did much justice. Words don’t really accurately reflect the feelings I have for this woman and what she did for me. The love we had for each other grew stronger and stronger with each passing year. I think that we helped each other to heal and grow and we did it together. I have so many memories with grandma and I surely can’t express them all here, but I do want to highlight some of the ones I hold nearest to my heart.
Life on the farm was a totally amazing place for a little boy to grow up. There was so much to see and do. Grandma put me right to work. There was always chores that needed to be done. We had to feed and take care of the animals. There was always something that needed painting. We had to shovel snow in the winter and mow the grass in the warmer months.
Grandma always had a huge garden and it was my job to help her with that. We had to prepare the soil, then plant all the seeds. Once the plants came up there was a lot of weeding to do and mulch to put out around the plants. Then we had to harvest the crops and then prepare the food. Canning was a big part of what we did and that was always a big project we did every year. Grandma was a master at canning and she taught me everything she knew. I learned so much about how to make things grow and flourish from Rose.
Rose knew that I needed something to be responsible for so they made the decision to get some bottle calves. It was my job to make sure they got fed every morning and every night. We would mix the milk formula and then put that in bottles and then it was time to feed the calves. I loved doing that so much! The calves really liked it too! My love of animals came early in life and a lot of that credit goes to Grandma.
When I was about 6 years old, mom and grandma decided that it was time for me to start with horses. Grandma found a pony (I named her Brenda) and bought it for me. She purposely did not buy a saddle for her. Rose told me that I needed to learn how to ride without a saddle first so I could learn balance and how to ride with my legs. She would help me get on Brenda and then she would lead me around the pen until I learned how to stay on. From then on I was on my own. We went through many ponies and later horses at the farm and grandma was there to help me the best she could all along the way. I would have never been able to accomplish what I did without her help and encouragement. Interestingly, there a day came when grandma told me that she had taught me everything she could about horses and so it was time to move on in my training with the help of other, more experienced trainers. I loved the fact that she would be humble enough to recognize that and allow me to move on so I could get better than where she could take me on her own. That was one of many things that made Grandma Rose so special.
Even though I did not get my first horse until I was 6, horse were always a part of my life growing up on the farm. My aunt Jayne is a big horse person and she had her horses around on the farm when I was really young. She would grab me up and we would ride her horses together. I just loved being up so high. It was a whole new world up there and I was hooked. I remember Monte and Omar Man. Grandma had helped Jayne, just like she would later help me.
Grandma was the co-chair for the horse and pony club in Black Hawk County for longer than I was alive. Even before I was old enough to ride myself, I was helping her with her duties. About a month before the county 4-H fair, we had the task of preparing the trophies for the horse show. Grandma had hundreds of old trophies that we kept in the corn crib. We would go through those old trophies and take the old ones apart. We would use the good pieces to assemble new trophies and then everything got cleaned and shined up. Once the trophies were ready, we were off to the fair. Grandma and Don Frost headed up everything for the show and all the trophies would be out on a table in the middle of the arena. Naturally, I was able to tag along with grandma so I got to sit out at that table. My job was to help with handing out the ribbons and trophies to all the contestants that placed. I just loved that job so much! It made me feel so important. After the day was over, we would all go over to the Steamboat restaurant nearby and have supper. Back then, we didn’t get to go out to eat very often (people did not go out to eat as often as they do today) so it was such a treat.
We were also very involved with the Black Hawk Creek Saddle Club shows. We would load up the big red trailer with as many horses and ponies as it would hold. Then we were off to the show. It was Grandma Rose and a bunch of little kids who loved horses and riding that showed up. In later years, I was able to drive the trailer myself. We spent so many hours over there showing and spending time with those we loved. Rose was there to help me every step of the way. She helped instill an inner confidence in myself that if I worked hard, I could do anything I set my mind to.
Christmas was always a very special time, especially when I was a little boy. We didn’t have a lot of money so Grandma Rose would help me to make Christmas gifts for everyone each year. I can remember wreaths, hand-drawn pictures of horses, and one year a bunch of wooden blocks that we cut up, sanded and painted in the barn. I can remember a couple of years that we made candles by pouring hot wax into molds and then painting the outside of the candles after they cooled. One year we even made window decorations by putting little crystals into the molds and heating them in the oven. Even though these gifts were nothing fancy, they might have been the most special Christmas gifts I have ever given because they were homemade and came from the heart. Grandma had a way of making very simple things seem special. We would make Christmas cookies together and I especially remember several years that we did little chocolates. We would use different colored chocolates and then paint them into a mold. Getting the Christmas tree was a very special event as well. Rose would dress me up in my snowmobile suit (when I was very young) and we would take the sled down into the grove on the back of the farm. Down there we had a bunch of smaller pine trees planted. We would pick out the perfect tree and then we would cut it down with the saw and tie it to the sled. We would then haul the tree to the house and bring it inside and decorate the tree. That was so awesome!
We had a pond down at the “other place” and grandma would often take me down there in the summer. We would swim and I would play with my toys in the sand. We had a small john boat that we would take out on the pond. It was one where we had to paddle by hand. I remember one time when mom, grandma and I were out on the boat and I thought it would be funny to rock the boat and make us tip over. Into the pond we all went. Unfortunately, grandma lost her glasses in the process and they ended up at the bottom of the lake somewhere, lost forever. That didn’t go over so well. Sometimes grandma would lay out in the yard at the house to get some sun. One time, while she was laying out, she fell asleep. I decided to get a bucket and fill it with ice cold water. I came running up and dumped the water on grandma while she slept. That one didn’t go over very well either.
When I was in my early teens Cara Oltmann got killed in a car accident. I knew Cara from riding horses together. She was 19 at the time of her death and I was several years younger than her. I had a secret crush on her, but more profoundly, she was my hero. I looked up to her in every way possible. When she died, it was so overwhelming to me. She was the first person, who I was really close to that died and I was not coping very well. Grandma help me through it by helping me to process my feelings. I am forever grateful for that.
I can remember always watching Highway to Heaven with Grandma on Wednesday nights. I can also remember us watching Monday Night Football every Monday night, during the NFL season. Grandma would make steaks and baked potatoes for the games. She would make this homemade gravy from the pan drippings and I would put it all over my steak and potatoes. It tasted so good and grandma always made plenty so I could grow up big and strong. She was such a great cook!
I decided, while in Jr. High, that I wanted to become a good basketball player. Grandma helped me clear out an area in the barn where we set up a basketball hoop and she told me that I needed to get busy and work on my game to get better. That is exactly what I did. I would shoot baskets for hours and hours each day. This habit lasted all through my time at Hudson. I would start to get a little resistance from those around me about all the time I was spending shooting baskets. Rose always defended me and told them to leave me alone because I was trying to make myself better. I ended up making myself into a pretty decent basketball player in the process. My sophomore year, we ended up winning a state title in basketball. Grandma came to all the games and would always wear the same blue shoes to each of the games. That team was very superstitious and Rose’s shoes became part of the ritual. She even wore them to all the games at state, down in Des Moines, and it worked. We won! It wouldn’t surprise me if those shoes are still somewhere in her house. She kept everything.
While in college, my best friend and cousin, Matt Lichty, got killed in a car accident. I took this very hard. He was the closest thing to a brother that I had ever known and I honestly did not know how to do life without him. Again, Rose helped me through the grieving process. Death is never easy to deal with, but grandma had a special way of putting things into perspective so that I could get some handle on the tragedy. Another one that I’m not sure how well I would have handled without her.
Rose was a person who always liked sports. She had a really good understanding of basketball and baseball, but did not know a lot about football. When football became my love, she learned the game so that we could relate through that love of mine. She would go to all my high school games. When I went to Iowa State, she was very involved with my recruitment process. She went to all the home games at Ames and during my Jr. and Sr. seasons, mom and grandma went to every single game home and away. Not many grandmas can say they have seen a football game in each of the Big 12 schools. Grandma was special like that. She learned the game very well and we would often talk about the different aspects of football.
Rose developed a very close relationship with my college football coach, Dan McCarney. She would go down and visit him from time to time and she would schedule meetings with him in his office and they would talk football. There were several occasions that she did this and I did not even know she was on campus. She wanted to make sure that I was being treated right and that I was given every opportunity to succeed in my career there. Not many grandmas would do that, but she did. Another reason she was so special. The very last long road trip that grandma ever took was a few years ago. Grandma, my wife Stephanie, and I drove down to Denton, TX. We went down there to see Coach Mac and see one of their games. Grandma loved Coach so much that whenever she saw him or would talk about him, tears would come to her eyes. It was a very special trip indeed and I felt blessed to be with her on that trip.
I can remember in 2009, when ISU beat Nebraska 9-7 in Lincoln. It was an unbelievable upset for Iowa State. It was especially meaningful if you had been there to experience some of the humiliating defeats that we had endured at the hands of the Huskers during my playing days. I understood better than anyone what that win meant, but so did grandma, because she was there too. She had experienced my pain in those years because of our connection and our love for each other. I was watching that game at my home in Ames and grandma was watching the game at her house in Waterloo. As soon as the game was over and we won, grandma was the first person I called. I simply said, “Can you believe that?” and she said, “No, they finally did it.” After that we stayed on the phone and cried together for the next couple of minutes with no words spoken. No words had to be spoken because we both knew what each other was thinking. We were so close like that.
Grandma was there for me as I went through the darkest time of my life, when I went through my divorce. She too knew the pain of having your spouse be unfaithful to you and telling you that they did not want to be with you. It really is a devastating thing to go through. I can’t tell you how many talks we had while I was going through this process. There were days that I simply did not think I would get through the day and I would talk to Rose and she would give me the strength I needed to get through the day. Thank you for that grandma, I could not have gotten through that without you.
Grandma would pray for me every day and that gave me comfort. She would always gently point me towards God and encourage me to have a relationship Him. There were so many years that I did not listen very well, but finally, after reaching my low point, I did finally decide to step over the faith line on Christmas Eve of 2008! That decision is the single greatest decision I have ever made in my life. My grandma’s influence factored greatly to that decision. Thanks for not giving up on me grandma!
As I was preparing for this, I was trying to come up with a verse/verses, from the Bible that would best represent Rose. Not only the person she was, but the way she lived her life. I came up with this:
Galatians 6:7-10 (NIV)
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
This is Iowa and we know farming. In the spring when a farmer plants a field of corn, they are supremely confident that it is indeed corn that will grow in that field. It would be absurd for us to think that if we planted corn, soybean plants would grow up in that field in place of the corn that was planted. It does not happen. It’s the law of nature that we can expect to harvest what it is that we plant. It’s also true in other areas too, especially when it comes to our lives.
In this passage, Paul is speaking to this very thing when he talks about reaping what we sow.
If you sow bad things you will harvest bad things.
If you sow good things you will harvest good things.
Every action we take in life has results. Each day we are alive we are sowing. Our words and actions will affect those around us and has an even bigger effect on our own souls. The question becomes what are you sowing? If you are a person who gossips about your friends, you will likely lose those friends. If you are sowing things to please your own desires, if your heart is filled solely with the things of this world only, you’ll harvest a crop of sorrow and evil. If on the other hand, you sow things that please God, if your heart is filled with things that are more heavenly in nature, you’ll harvest joy and everlasting life in the process.
Rose spent her life sowing in a way that put the needs of others ahead of her own desires. She tried to help those around her who needed her help. She put her focus on things more heavenly than worldly in nature. And that is why today, she is finally reaping the harvest of her whole lifetime of sowing. Her crop has been harvested. Each one of us here today is her crop. She invested her love, caring, and time into each and every one of us is some way or another. I don’t think any of us can say that our life was not affected, at least a little, by Rose’s influence.
I am not going to try to paint a picture that Rose was perfect and only did good things. She wasn’t. No one is perfect and every one of us falls short. She is the one who taught me to swear. But I can safely say, that the good things that she did for others was tremendous.
Many people say that they do not know what their purpose in life is. If we look to the books of Matthew and Mark, it is spelled out very clearly what it is that we should be doing in our lives each day. Jesus spells this out when He was asked what the greatest commandment was and also when Jesus gave His Great Commission.
Mark 12:28-31 (NIV)
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Breaking it down, we have three jobs:
In my opinion, Rose did pretty well in all three of these areas. She had a strong love for God. She would read her Bible and she prayed. Boy did she pray. She prayed for me every day of my life. She gave me this little prayer card so that I would know that she was praying for me. I know that some of you have these as well from her. I carry this little card with me whenever I travel so it has literally gone all over the country with me. There is power in prayer and Rose understood that. If Rose knew you, she prayed for you at some time or another.
Rose knew that one of the best ways that we can love God is to love the people around us. Grandma really excelled in loving those around her. I use the word love because she did love. She loved each and every person here. Please understand that you were all her friends, but deeper than that, she considered all of you family. We are all family because we are all of God’s children and we should treat each other as family. Grandma got that. I think if we thought about everyone as family, we might all go out of our way to be a little nicer to each other.
Grandma also went about the work of making disciples. If you did not know God, she was going to tell you about Him. If you knew about God, but didn’t have a close relationship with Him, she was going to be working on you. Many of us do not do a very good job of telling others about God because we are afraid and unsure about sharing with others. Rose never was. She was never going to be quiet about God and that was just the way it was. I think that a few of us would be well served to take on that same mentality.
Sometimes God sends people into our lives to help teach us how we should be or what we should do. I think that Rose was a great example, to everyone that knew her, of how we should handle loving God, loving people, and making disciples in our own lives. She poured her love and life into each one of us here today and while she is no longer with us here on earth, what she passed on to us is. We are the ones who now carry on her legacy and we have the responsibility to carry on the work she started in us. We need to be reading our Bibles. We need to be praying for others. We need to be loving and investing time with our circle of friends. We need to serve those who need our help. We need to not be afraid to tell others about God and what He has done in our lives. We need to live our lives in a way that makes others want to know the same God that we do.
Everyone is saying how we need change in our country. I agree completely. But the change doesn’t start in Washington. The change starts inside each of us. Let’s be the change. Rose showed us through how she lived her life how we can do better. Don’t let what she started end here. Let’s make the change in all of our little circles.
The rose is one of the most beautiful flowers. It takes center stage in a garden. Imagine Rose’s life as a single rose in a meadow. Beautiful while it was there, but now it is gone. Now picture that meadow filled with hundreds of roses and how much more beautiful that is. We are those roses. We can make what Rose started and make it so much better.
What I am going to miss the most is our talks. Grandma was the great counselor. She always took the time to talk to you. She cared about you and your life and it showed. She made you feel like the most important person in the world whenever you were talking to her. Whenever I would come home to Waterloo, I always spent time with her at her table talking. As I would drive all over the Midwest for work, I would call her and we would talk. We talked about life. We talked about what was happening in my life and she would tell me about hers. I kept up on what was happening in many of your lives through her.
She was never afraid to tell you exactly what she thought. She never sugar-coated anything and I really appreciated that. That is such a rare thing in our society today. So many people just tell you what you want to hear. They do not care enough to tell you what you need to hear. If I was being an ass, she would tell me. I didn’t always follow her advice, but I did always carefully consider it. All of my major life decisions up to this point in my life have gone through Rose. It will be hard, moving forward making decisions without having her to run my thoughts through.
A few of the most important things that she told me over and over were:
Always wake up and ask yourself what you can do for your wife. Treat her right and don’t take her for granted. Always be a gentleman and open the door for a lady (she was the one who taught me to do that). Make your kids behave. Be firm, but also be loving. You are their parent, not their friend. Always take the time to care about those around you. Don’t forget to love, it is the most important thing you will ever do.
Rose’s single greatest passion was her farm. It was a gift from her parents and she wanted to make sure that the farm will be taken care of after she is gone. Don’t worry grandma, we got this one. We will keep this farm in the family, I promise you that.
In grandma’s last year on this earth, she got to know two very special people. Charlie Rose, Matt and Deidre’s little girl (who was named after Rose) and my son Matthew. I could see the life come back to Rose when she was around them. The last time Matthew was around Rose, she said “Now that I know Matthew, I don’t want to go.” I am very sad that Matthew is too young to remember Grandma Rose. But in a way he will. How I am as a father to him is a direct reflection of what she taught me so I know that Rose does live on in me. I am glad that she did get to meet him though.
I will end with a story that I think sums up Rose and the person she was:
In December, we were having a first birthday party for Matthew at our home in Jewell, IA. Grandma wasn’t in the greatest of conditions to go anywhere, but she insisted that she wanted to be there. Cody was kind enough to drive her down and she was able to be a part of the special day. At one point, she had Cody go to the car and get a little sac of toys she had brought along. Obviously, it was a day for celebrating Matthew, but there were a couple of other young little boys at the party. She had each of those boys pick out a toy to have out of her bag she had brought with her so they would not feel left out. She wanted them to feel special too. At the time I did not understand what in the world she was doing. Who brings presents to a birthday party, but they are not for the person whose birthday it is? I get it now. That was Rose.
She was special and each of us will miss her greatly. On a day like this, it is so easy to get caught up in the sadness of what we no longer have here on earth. But I want to challenge you to put away those tears, for at least part of the time, and smile. Smile because we were blessed enough to have such a special person in our lives. Smile, because of who she was. Smile because through her, we saw a side of the human existence that was good.
They say that when you look at a person’s gravestone, it is not the dates marking the beginning and ending of their life that is important. It is the dash between them because that dash that represents their life. In that dash is everything they did and said while on earth. I can safely say that Rose had the widest and longest dash of anyone I have ever known.
Dortha, your little girl has finally come home to you. Hold her in your arms and show her the love you always did. Please give her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek from all of us and tell her that we miss her and that we are so thankful that we were part of her family.