What a beautiful day it was to celebrate the life of my mentor and adopted grandmother, Wanda Van Gelder. Many of you would hear me talk about her in amazement and adoration. She lived to be 94 years old. She was a trailblazer who studied to be a become an accountant in the 1940s and was one of the few women in her business school classes. She went on to own and operate a successful public accounting business in Oklahoma City off 44th and South Western for over 50+ years. She… choose to never marry or have children; nevertheless, she had such an outgoing personality thus never having a problem making many friends.
My maternal grandmother work at Southwest Integris in the early 1990s and walked the lower level halls for exercise before her shift. Wanda did the same before work and they soon became best friends. My grandmother invited her and her mom (who lived to be 101) for Thanksgiving and Christmas each year as I was growing up. As a preteen, she took me to my first live play-Annie at Lyric Theater. She sat me down at age 18 when I was in college paying all my living expenses and making $8.50 an hour. She showed me the power of compound interest over 40 years’ time and insisted I open an IRA and start saving at least $50 a month in mutual funds-an extreme stretch for my budget at the time but I listened and followed through. Decades later, I would never miss an opportunity to continually thank her for that advice. She introduced me to naturopathic medicine as she walked three miles a day and never took any medicine up until she starting having severe knee pain at age 93.
After my Grandmother passed, Wanda started attending every major holiday with my family. She was at our land this past Fourth of July watching us shoot off fireworks.
I am a grateful because all this started with an invite for a holiday meal with the compassion of my Grandmother. There are coworkers, neighbors, the clerk at the check line you see every week and people at your church that have no family and need an invite to a meal too. Yes, it’s out of your comfort zone and yes it takes effort. Not only will you bless their life but I can promise you, that you will be blessed too.
I had the honor of spending a lot of time with her these past few weeks. She took my hand one night and said slowly, “It goes by so fast.” What a reality check that moment was for me. Surreal.
I love you dearly Wanda and will see you again soon my friend. The holiday dinner table will not be the same without you.