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A great grandma 100 times over…and counting

In mid-October, 92-year-old Elizabeth Vreugdenhil got to meet her namesake Elizabeth Grim – this newborn was her 100th great-grandchild!

Getting to hold her Canadian great-granddaughter was a challenge, though, with great-grandma just over the border in Washington State, and the US/Canadian border closed due to COVID restrictions. So if the baby couldn’t crossover into the US, and grandma couldn’t come into Canada, well, then, there was just one thing to do: meet halfway! Just like thousands of others whose families have been split apart by the border shutdown, Canadians and Americans brought their camping chairs along and set them up right along both sides of that borderline. Some umbrellas were also brought along, Grandma Vreugdenhil was comfortably seated, and then the sleeping baby was tucked into her arms for a wonderful photo session. Even the local paper, The Lynden Tribune, came to get some pictures that they later shared on their front page.

Psalm 128 speaks of it being a blessing to see our children’s children, so what a blessing it is then to see your children’s children’s children…and one hundred times over! Blessings upon blessings upon blessings! Whether you know this grand lady or not, God’s people can share in her joy!

Baby Elizabeth was responsible for evening things up among the great-grandchildren, making it exactly 50 girls, to match the 50 boys, but since then, the girls have taken the lead with great grandchild #101! There’s also a near-perfect American/Canadian split, with the Canucks up just one, 51-50. Another fun statistic: Grandma Vreugdenhil has been averaging 5 new great-grandchildren a year since she was gifted with her first one just 20 years ago.

And adding to the wonderful family history, baby Elizabeth was baptized in the very same dress that her great grandmother was baptized in 92 years ago. As her dad put it, that dress “has ’seen’ the sign and seal for over 100 years.”

Photo by Bryan Grim.


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Assorted, Parenting

What my grandma taught me

My grandma died at the age of 93, more than 25 years after her Henk died. And during those years she often wondered why God hadn’t taken her too – all her children were grown up, so what did she have left to do? She hadn’t exactly forgotten about her grandchildren, but like many grandparents, she did underestimate how much she had to offer the younger generation. She didn’t understand how much her grandchildren still needed to learn from her. 60’s – Hello! Grandma was already in her 60’s when most of the grandchildren first got to know her, and the lessons began immediately. The very first lesson she taught us was that it was important to eat all the food on our plates. The second lesson? That whether we ate all the food on our plates or not, our grandma loved us. She modeled and taught us about unconditional love – the exact type of love God gives us. Parents practice this love too, but it isn’t always as clear. Parents are, after all, the ones who have to punish, and prod, while grandparents can simply adore, spoil and hug. 70’s – Learning never stops There are other lessons, too, that are best learned from a grandparent. Grandma taught us that purity can be funny – that one can get laughs without being crude or rude. She was a very elegant lady but she wanted us to know her generation had the secret to good clean fun; they knew that the very best type of humor was silly humor. So even though she had the regal bearing of a queen, she never passed up a chance to model the large fuzzy slippers she got one Christmas. And when we picked her up at her apartment she always took a moment, with a sly grin, to quickly say goodbye to her collection of stuffed animals. Even in her 70’s she had an innocent child-like sense of humor. A favorite example is of the time when she was out with one daughter and a couple of grandsons. The foursome was out walking when they came upon a set of revolving doors. Her daughter, our dear mom, went first, followed by little James. But then it was my turn… the grin on my face let my mother know in advance what her urchin child had planned. But just as she was about to give me a stern warning, in stepped grandma. The two of us, urchin child and tiny, elegant, 70-something-year-old grandma, started going round and round and round again in that revolving door until we both got so dizzy and weak from laughing we tumbled out. 80’s – She’s seen it all before By the time grandma hit her eighties, her grandchildren were just about all grownup. But she still had a lot to teach us. We were leaving our Christian schools, entering university and experiencing for the first time just how depraved the world could be. Our gentle, delicate grandma knew all about it – in her eighty years on this earth she had seen it all. One story she often told to encourage us, was about the day the Germans invaded her native land of Holland. That day she had looked up to see so many German paratroopers floating down to earth they blotted out the sky. The sight convinced her that the end had come, that the world must be over – how could it ever get worse than this? But it wasn’t the end, and though German power seemed invincible, God brought liberation. Her point was clear: don’t despair – our God can overcome any evil. 90’s – Last but not least In her nineties grandma start showing signs of Alzheimer’s, and began getting confused about what decade it was, and what country she was in. She soon lost the ability to speak English, and in her last months couldn’t walk further than a few dozen feet without huffing. Her body was gone, and her mind was failing her too. On her better days, when her mind was clear enough that she could understand what was happening to her, she got very frustrated. Once again she wanted to know, why was she still here? What did the Lord still have left for her to do? The truth was she wasn’t able to do anything for anyone anymore. But she could still be helped. This wasn’t an easy time for grandma and sometimes she vented her frustration on her children. But she loved to be helped by her grandchildren – anything we did for her would be met with a smile or a pat on the arm. She was once again teaching us about unconditional love – Christ-like love – this time, how to receive it. She responded to us, as we should respond to our giving, gracious God. Conclusion  Grandma lived to be 93, and while she sometimes thought that her job here was done long ago, her grandchildren are very grateful God gave us these many more years with her. Grandparents are such a blessing....


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