Great-Grandma came to live with Grandpa and Grandma Marshal about two years ago. My family lives just up the street, and we like that because we can visit them a lot.
Grandma Marshal is Great-Grandma’s caregiver. She helps take care of her mother’s needs, and is a very good and loving daughter.
Great-Grandma is old. She told me one day, “I’m so old I feel guilty every time I draw a breath!”
Great-Grandma makes me laugh. And she’s always smiling, even when she’s sad. “Life’s too short to waste it by wearing a long face, even at my age. Happiness is a choice, Makinzee,” she explained one day. We were sitting on the porch swing together watching a little autumn breeze carry leaves and birds across the sky. “The only one that can make you unhappy is yourself.” Great-Grandma tapped the tip of my nose. “Besides, there’s so much to be happy about!”
“Like what, Great-Grandma?” I asked.
Her smile got as bright as the sunlight shining through the elm tree’s yellow leaves. “Even at 93, I’m a child of God,” she said. “And just look about you, child. There are birds that sing their hearts out. There’s the sun that can light a whole world, and there are flowers that bloom.”
She patted my knee. “I have a family who loves me, and I have hands to help others.” She held up a pair of fleece mittens she was sewing for a needy children’s program.
Then she looked up at the sky. “My, my, everywhere I look there’s more. A loving Heavenly Father watching over us, and, oh!” She pointed to a huge, misty rainbow a ways off. “Rainbows are not only promises of better times, but reminders that when we have trials we can still be happy.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Don’t rainbows come after it rains? Don’t wildflowers grow when it rains?” Great-Grandma asked.
“If rain can make the flowers grow, Makinzee, then why not the rest of us too?” Great-Grandma smiled.
The next summer Great-Grandma got really sick. She had to stay in bed a lot of the time. One day I looked quietly into her room, and she was lying in bed staring at an empty wall, watching the shadows get bigger. I guess she was happy because she said life was too short to be sad, but, well, today she looked sad.
I decided it was my turn to make her smile. Grandpa Marshal had planned for a long time to take my brother, Ethan, and me to the circus. I really wanted to go, and today was the last day before it left town. But instead I asked Grandpa if he would mind taking just Ethan. I had a strong feeling that I should stay and do something for Great-Grandma.
Grandpa didn’t say anything. His chin started shaking like the leaves do when the wind blows, and he hugged me for a long time.
When I told Grandma Marshal why I was staying, her eyes filled up with tears, and one ran down onto her smile before she could push it away. She always said if a warm tear touches your lips it makes sweet words grow, and I guess she’s right because she whispered, “Bless you.”
Grandma keeps lots of paper, crayons, watercolors, and other fun stuff for her grandchildren in what she calls the “kids’ corner.” After Grandpa and Ethan left, I set to work.
Three hours later I hung pictures of rainbows all over the empty wall in Great-Grandma’s room. She cried. It was only the third time I ever saw her cry. The first time was when she bore her testimony at church. The second was when a little bird died in her hands—she said it’s a sad thing when someone or something passes away and nobody sheds a tear. And the third time was when she saw all those rainbows. But those tears—like the ones when she bore her testimony—were happy tears. She laughed. “So many rainbows,” she said, “and all in my room!”
Two days later, Great-Grandma died. I cried, but they were warm tears, the kind that make sweet words grow. I wrote some of them down on a piece of paper and put them in Great-Grandma’s casket. I said, “I love you, Great-Grandma. Thank you for your smiles. I will try to be like you by being my own best self. Mom and Dad said that if I can learn to be happy like you, even when I’m sad, and to think of others like you always did, that I will be in pretty good shape when it’s my turn for someone to paint rainbows in my room. I’ll see you later, Great-Grandma, so I won’t say good-bye. Love, Makinzee.”
“May [God] bless us to hear the often silent cries of the sorrowing and the afflicted, … and to ‘drop everything and come running.’”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “A Handful of Meal and a Little Oil,” Ensign, May 1996, 31.