A Lesson from My Grandmother’s Frugal (and Generous) Life

I’ve put together this tribute from the notes for and my best recollection of the the eulogy I spoke at my grandmother Ruth McMinn McIntyre Shull’s memorial service in July 2019. The eulogy given differed in a few small respects (live edits, etc).

Like many of her generation, my grandmother was the definition of frugality and economy. She used what she had well. Growing up in the Great Depression will do that to you. 

She would save everything if given a chance. old cardboard boxes, old packets of plastic silverware, old detergent bottles,

Going to her house, you never knew what leftovers you were going to get. 

And she always – always – had honey-baked ham. 

I wasn’t just playing with toys that my older cousins used – I was playing with toys that were the bee’s knees in the 60s. And of course, some of those toys were old oatmeal canisters which we cleverly used as bowling pens 

On hot summer days when we weren’t outside tending to decades-old flower bushes with compost from her kitchen, I would sit in her back room and – because she was a frugal lady- I’d watch old VHS tapings of Little House on the Prairie

But despite her frugality, she was not stingy. She always seemed to have time to give to others and to show love. 

It was in those times she made for me (and in these recent days) that I’ve gathered snippets of just how busy her life has been, even at the age of 88. 

She was teaching English as a second language. 

She was visiting people who were sick. 

She was giving the ladies of Northbridge and the Crossings a run for their money in cards (not actual money, of course).

She was running the church library like a Fortune 500 business. 

She somehow found time to pray for a long list of people – many of you here in this church.

Over the course of her life, Ruth McMinn McIntyre Shull found time to enrich the lives of not one but three men – and all of their extended families. She was maintaining relationships from across families and marriages and a long lifespan.

And – as you may know – she found time to stick around and visit with so many of the many friends and family who visited her in the last days. 

She never seemed hurried, if you remember. 

And like all things given to her, used her time soooo well and so wisely. 

She embodied the wisdom you might draw from one of Paul’s letters – the one to the Ephesians. When Paul calls the Ephesians to be imitators of Christ, he says to:

“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” 

I believe she did that.

Now maybe I’m not supposed to get up here and preach, but “getting up there” and preaching runs in my family. 

Our peers won’t judge us if we let our time slip to entertaining ourselves with chasing politics and celebrity, watching TV, judging or envying people on social media, or just waiting on things to happen to us. 

But they won’t remember us at our funerals for that. We remember Ruth McMinn Thomas McIntyre Shull for making the most of her every hour. She made things happen. 

She filled every page of the story of her life with memories and gifts to the world, and she made the world better for it. 

I wish we all used our time as well. I take it as a personal challenge.

Thanks be to God for her example. 

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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