Friday, August 31, 2012

Nina Roberta Louise Kellenbenz

I read this at my Grandma's funeral a week ago.  What a tremendous woman.

She was more than the quintessential grandma.  She had a pantry full of the worst kinds of junk food, a belly full of laughter, a house full of trinkets, a mind full of stories, but a heart that was never full. 

Her soul was quite a different story.  That was filled to the brim.  Jesus was her rock, her healer, her provider, her example,her friend.  But Grandma's heart?  In there was always room for one more.

If you had the excitable privilege of ever knowing my Grandma, if even for a short time, then you probably know these things about her.  She wore her heart on her sleeve.  She is the best example I know of someone who valued relationships the way that Jesus did.  Grandma’s heart was made for people, especially her grandkids.  She was good at being herself and just loving us as hard as she could.  It wasn't fancy or showy or about things. It was about the relationships and time spent together.  It was about second chances and unconditional love.  It was about support in any venture and heartfelt praise when we found success or adversity.

Anybody was welcome at her house, anytime.  So many of our friends visited 1081 Manning Drive, and were treated as adopted grandkids from the second they walked in the door.

We all have different memories of Grandma and Grandpa, and mine are some of the fondest memories of my life.  Remember making the drive from Maryland to South Carolina most summers, hitting the stone pavement as we made a left at the fork in the road? That meant we were almost there.  The big brown van usually erupted in singing or screaming or whatever tends to happen when five kids, a dog, and two parents have arrived at their destination.  No matter what time it was, we ran out to the pier or broke out a deck of cards around their kitchen table.  The next day Grandma would drag out the big yellow laundry tote full of kitchen implements and containers she had been saving for us. We had mud pies and slough-shakes to make!  In the early days, she was floating with usin her blue and white Styrofoam lake chair. In the latter days she was watching us from her throne up on the porch.

Most Christmas seasons didn’t begin until the fifth wheel bounded down the driveway.  As soon asGrandpa put it in park, we were running out the door to give hugs and fight over who would get to keep the popcorn tin, always repurposed as a trashcan for our rooms.   There were homegrown Christmas pageants,performed mostly as improv, met always with exuberant praise.

Golf cart rides, trips to Walmart, her homemade coleslaw,listening to records down in the basement, trying on her clip on earrings,  laughing at Grandpa, camping trips, trying wasabi for the first time, fill in the blank. We have the memories, we have the example, we have the wisdom.  We are blessed.

Grandma’s spirit of adventure could not be matched, except by maybe Grandpa.  She's been in Heaven for 48 hours now; I’m sure they've already found each other and gotten to know the place, maybe even met up with Aunt Kate for an afternoon of fishing in the Crystal Sea.  She has most likely picked up a jewel at each spot to prove they've been there, and if there are sharpies in heaven, she has undoubtedly written on the jewel the region in which it was found.  Just think, they could be making their way back now to their very own mansion in Glory, which Grandpa started custom tailoring as soon as he arrived.  I bet you didn't know there was brown paint in Heaven!  She will line the golden pathways around their mansion with the jewels they found, and may be elated that she won't have to resort to artificial flowers there in heaven.  And if in fact, all dogs (and cats) do go to heaven?  She is sitting in her easy chair with the kitten version of Ruth in her lap, singing in time with the angels during gospel hour.  And once that’s over, she’ll pick up her yarn and make afghans for her neighbors, which is easy for her now since her hands have been healed.   She’ll be ready for Dave to drop in at anytime, she can’t wait to give him a hug and tell him how much she loves him.

It is hard to say goodbye to the other half of such a legacy.  But easy, and almost joyous,when we consider the journey of faith here on earth that must occur if we want to be reunited with the two of them at their lakehouse in Heaven.   All they have ever wanted for their children,grandchildren, and great grandchildren was for us to really know the One for whom they lived.  Grant them this wish and anticipate the blessing and fulfillment that won’t come from anything but knowing God.  Their life was an adventure and can only be considered a legacy because they followed hard after Him.

Once she arrived back at the lake to finish her race here on earth, she looked out at the water and told me she felt like she was finally in heaven.   My soul was excited for her, knowing she was on the verge of finally meeting her Jesus. 


  1. MB-

    Beautiful. You have such a way with words. I'm sorry for your loss, but am joyful with you knowing she is in a better place and that you will see her again. Thanks for sharing.

    Renee ( case you know a lot of Renee's :)

    1. Aw Renee--Thanks. We need to get together (game night!!).

  2. So absolutely beautiful; your gorgeous Grandma, your heartfelt tribute, your grandparents life and legacy, and most important the gift of eternal life through faith in our Lord and Risen Savior, Jesus Christ. When we all get to Heaven what a day of rejoicing it will be!

    1. Isn't it great?!?!?!? Can't wait for that day!

  3. This is Missy (Kellenbenz) deSousa

    Yes, Aunt Nina was a very special lady. I have so many wonderful memories of her and Uncle Elmer growing up. 4th of July get togethers on their front lawn in Annapolis, watching the fireworks. Playing pool or listening to Uncle Elmer and others play music in their basement. Visiting with them at the farm and riding dirt bikes through the woods and many more memories too many to mention. I know that I always felt their love and truly loved them in return. I look forward to seeing the again someday.

    1. Thanks for reading, but most of all for sharing some of what you remember!! We will always be able to look back at life with them and have unlimited stories and chuckles!! Love ya Aunt Missy!! Hope all is well!!

  4. MB-

    I can't tell you how thankful Mom & Sherri and I were to attend the SC service. It was such a beautiful celebration. You said it all, she loved unconditionally. I will always remember her laughter and joyful spirit. What an inspiration, she treasured family, loved deeply, and as you said, always had room for one more! A woman of faith and substance.

    Aunt Bee, Sherri and Terri

  5. Mari,

    No words... just a grateful tear for knowing Nina for just a little while. She is home.