What I Learned at My Grandmother’s Memorial Service

My grandmother, Dr. Irene Bishop Kuhl, passed away over Thanksgiving. She was 93 years old. It was wonderful to celebrate her life over this past weekend in Denver, CO. I was honored to be invited to read a eulogy about her life at her memorial service and her funeral. It was emotional and wonderful to hear my cousin, Kestrel, share details of memories that she and I shared but I only remembered when Kestrel spoke about them. When a fellow teacher spoke about my grandmother as her mentor and friend, I learned about three things we have in common.

My grandmother was a first grade teacher her entire career. Her teaching colleague shared how passionate Irene was about finding the best way for her students learn. I have spent my entire career working in higher education. Despite technically being an “administrator,” I have always thought of my role as an educator beyond the classroom. I have also been fortunate to teach or co-teach a formal class just about every year of my career. I love trying to find new ways to interact with and engage learners to help them grow. It’s great to know that we have this passion in common.

The reason I love to teach is because it is the best way I have found to keep learning. Apparently, my grandmother was well known for trying out all the newest teaching methods and practices with her first graders. She was a life long learner, earning her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and a doctorate in education all after she started teaching and as a mother of five children. She earned her doctorate in 1977 at a time when doctorates in education for working women were very rare. After retirement she kept learning through many activities including water aerobics, writer’s group, and producing a television show. When one son moved to France, she learned French so that she could communicate with her French grandchildren in their language. I hope I can spend the rest of my life learning, just like Grandma Reen.


Being positive does not mean pretending things are great, instead it is about paying attention to and actively cultivating the things in our life that are great. My grandmother focused on the best things in life. When someone cut her off in traffic, she would routinely remark, “Well, I’m not going to let that ruin my day.” I’m learning the power of cultivating the positive things in my life, living with gratitude for the smallest things, letting go of control, and simultaneously claiming my agency. I was energizing hearing about the effort she made and the impact it had on those around her throughout her life.

I am grateful for all the time I got to spend with Grandma Reen. I am proud of her commitment, accomplishments, and energy. I am delighted to learn that we had so much in common.

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