Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Tribute

Today, yes, April Fool’s Day, marks what would have been the 103rd birthday for Josh’s grandma—Jessie Louise Cooley. I only had the privilege of knowing her about five years, but she is not a person you forget easily. She was a tiny lady, her shoulders slumping from osteoporosis, with a shuffling/high-stepping kind of walk that I can still close my eyes and picture perfectly—but really cannot describe in a way that would do it justice. She was feisty, and she was sharp. The first time Josh brought me over to meet her she sat me down at her little kitchen table and told me a very animated story about her days as a waitress and how she had landed her first teaching job and ended up in western Nebraska. She was a born story-teller, with an amazing ability to keep the attention of her audience.

She has been on my mind these last few days, not only because today is her birthday, but because I ran into yet another person this past weekend at the home school conference who knew her. Since “Cooley” became my last name, I really cannot count how many times I have heard, “Oh Cooley, you wouldn’t happen to be any relation to Mrs. Cooley.” And always, for a second I’m baffled, wondering which Mrs. Cooley? But truth be told, there really is only ONE Mrs. Cooley. ;o) This woman I met proceeded to tell me about the profound influence Grandma Cooley had on her spiritual walk back when she was a 12 year old at a summer camp. And I am still pondering, days later, what a life, what a testimony!

What you must know: Grandma Cooley was known for saying she spent the first half of her life living for herself, so the second half belonged solely to God. She lived as simply as she could, doing without as much as she could so that she could GIVE as much as she could to missionaries. EVERYWHERE (and I do mean everywhere!) she went she was handing out tracts and telling others about Jesus, the checker in the grocery store, the waiter at the restaurant, and even the person who dialed her number by accident (!!!). She never let an opportunity pass her by. She had a refrigerator and a stand-up freezer in her kitchen—both PLASTERED with photos of family, friends, and missionaries. If your picture was there that meant you were getting prayed for daily. She was an avid letter writer--not only to the many missionaries she supported--but also to her grandchildren, desiring with all her heart that her family would have a personal relationship with Jesus. She taught “Good News Clubs” (at one point, up to four a week) for children to come and hear about Jesus. She continued this into her NINETIES!!! She was caught mowing her yard and climbing ladders to clean leaves out of her gutters well into her nineties too. You might say she was a tad stubborn. :o)

Truly, she was amazing. I have never known another person like her. And as so many have found out, she is unforgettable. What an incredible legacy to leave on earth! It is so special for me, to cross paths with someone whose life she affected. But it also makes me wonder, some day, when I am no longer here, will I have left a legacy such as hers? Am I going to live this life holding on too tightly--to money, to belongings, to reputation, to my time? Or will I give it all away like she did? Will I “live out loud” in a way that encourages, effects, and changes others? It’s something I have been pondering lately—it’s so very easy to say it, to think it, but to truly LIVE it like she did . . .

So, today, I am praising God for the life and ministry she had, and the privilege of knowing her, even for a short time. Happy birthday to her!


Tiffany said...

I knew Mrs. Cooley...very well. She went to the church that Bill and I attended, Old Cheney Alliance. What a woman!!! Bill & I still laugh when we think of the time we went Christmas caroling at her home. On her living room end table, she had an 8 x 10 glossy of President Bush. So funny!!! What a legacy.

Janna said...

Ha--I remember that picture too--one of many people she prayed and wrote letters to. I think that's why they sent her a picture!

Kelly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelly said...

Hey Janna ~ I'm not sure if you know me, but your father-in-law sent out a link to your blog, and I am SO glad that he did. What a perfectly WONDERFUL tribute to THE Mrs. Cooley.!!! I got tears in my eyes just seeing her picture again! Her impact on my family goes way back to MY dad, and I can still remember her coming to LCS and telling our class (I was in school with Joel) stories in elementary about missionaries. She truly did leave a wonderful legacy -- because she shared a message about a God who is, truly, from EVERLASTING to EVERLASTING! Thanks for sharing such a sweet tribute!

Kelly Langenberg

Anna said...

What a neat lady and amazing example to us! Thanks for sharing, this is such an encouragement. It's been on my mind lately how temporary our days our on earth. Thanks for sharing!

Kathy said...

This is beautiful!!!

Kris said...

Not sure if Bill ever shared this with you or Josh, but I actually met a couple out here when we lived at J.AARS in North Carolina (the Wy.cliffe base for jungle pilot training) who asked me if I knew Mrs. Cooley, too!!! It was right after we moved here, so just about a year ago. Turns out this couple served as missionaries and Mrs. Cooley went on a short term trip with them many years ago. She's actually the only person they know from Nebraska, so when I met them, that was their Nebraska connection!

I was thrilled to say that I had crossed paths with Mrs. Cooley and am privelaged to know and cherish her family generations that are following behind her.

This was one of my most treasured moments upon moving out here away from home...this conversation about Mrs. Cooley.

Thanks for sharing this, Janna. :)