My grandma is one of the most special people in my life. Today, I had the chance to tell her just how special she is to me! I had the unique opportunity to write a tribute to be read to her at a special celebration for her 70 years of service as a pianist  and organist for her church.

                              (Here is a picture from a few years ago when Grandma came to be
                                 interviewed by my second grade students)
                                  With her sweet dog, Ginger and Noah (around 3 months old)

Nervously, a little seven-year-old girl sat down at the piano for the first time. Her fingers waited anxiously for instruction as she listened intently to her stern, old fashioned, teacher Mrs. Wile. Mrs. Wile wore her hair pulled tightly in a bun and wore glasses that pinched her nose. The lesson would begin as Mrs. Wile placed her pocket watch on the piano. It was time to learn how to play. The first song she would learn how to play in 1937 was titled, Long, Long, Ago.  Boy, was that song a chore! Mrs. Wile expected both hands to do something different! 

I wonder if Mrs. Wile knew what an amazing musician her student would become? Even more, I wonder if Mrs. Wile could ever imagine how the little girl she once taught would go on to teach so many what she had learned.

Over the years, that little girl, Pat Ward, has grown to be a great grandmother and has taught multiple generations what she has learned on the piano and organ.  She says that she is thankful for Mrs. Wile and the way she taught her to play.

As her granddaughter, I know from sitting down at Grandma’s piano in her magical basement where she taught, that there was nothing to be nervous about when she was teaching. Although I was not her student, I often asked her to play for me and assist me in what I was trying to learn. I could never understand how she could make one hand go one way and the other go another all the while turning pages of sheet music and pushing pedals. In addition, I always found myself distracted by knowing she kept stickers in her piano bench, comics in a basket, and lollipops in a jar for her students.

I am not sure the number of students who sat beside Grandma as she taught but I do know, when I was next to her, time stood still as she played. And when the song was finished, I would always ask to hear more.

Her music has graced Park Church for over 70 years. It filled this sanctuary with reverence and has accompanied many generations in memorable life events, praise, and worship. And, I am confident, that through her music she introduced the power of the Holy Spirit to many. as music is a passageway to the heart and soul.

Though many things have changed over the years, one has not. That is the gentle, kind hearted, spirit of the one who plays the ivory keys. Though this celebration is a tribute towards her years of service as a talented musician in this church, I would like to take a moment to recognize her for not just what she does through music but who she is at heart.

Grandma’s heart overflows with the desire to help others. Her blessings are shared with the world through her compassion for others and self sacrifice to provide and help those in need. Her laughter illuminates all who hear and quickly becomes contagious. She is a prayer warrior with a positive uplifting spirit.  She demonstrates an incredible work ethic of commitment, passion and desire to follow the calling of her Lord Jesus Christ.

To me, Grandma Ward has been an example of the fruit of the Spirit.  She overflows with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Grandma has always been a constant example of God’s love to her family and those around her. 

My hope is each time you are reminded of my Grandma Ward through a song you hear or a memory you have, you lift her up in prayer and reach out to remind her that her music still plays in the memories you have with her.

I would love to hear the many ways that Grandma has impacted the lives in this church. Equally so, I would love to hear the many humorous stories that begin with “I remember when….”  And end with Grandma’s infectious laugh that I love so much!

In closing, I think it is only fair to share a few bloopers that Grandma mistakenly told me about.  One of her stories begins…one time the janitor waxed my piano bench a little too good…Another she tells is of the time she was playing Nearer My God to Thee when the sheet music fell. She continued playing with one hand while the other hand was reaching and feeling on the pedals to find the rest of her music! She  shared of times when she would begin playing one hymn and while finishing would realize she had switched to a different song half way through. Grandma was just before her time and had her own Gospel remix going on!

I am so thankful for the little girl who learned how to play the piano so many years ago.  Even more so, I am thankful for a best friend who I call Grandma; who has taught me so much more than notes on a scale. And, I feel certain that she has left you, too, with more than just memories of beautiful music.

Psalm 95:2 “Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.”

Playing for Noah as an infant

                                                                Holding Zach