Remembering Babby: 13 Lessons From a Life Well-Lived

baby Barbara and Babby

We all know that there’s a season for everything, but sometimes that knowledge doesn’t dull the sting of losing a loved one. Remembering them, and cherishing those special memories with the people you love, can go a long way to bring healing.

Remembering Babby

My grandmother, Babby, was reunited with my grandfather on February 2, 2020. In the midst of this grieving process, we’re also remembering all of the wonderful parts of a life lived to the fullest. As we embrace the memories of this dynamic woman, here are a few of the things she’s taught us.

Babby (left), and sisters Ann and Bunny

  1. Don’t Let Other People’s Expectations Limit Who You Are.

Babby excelled at athletics and academics. She attended Cornell University, one of the few co-ed universities at the time. After graduation,  she left her familiar East Coast life and went to Denver in the early 1950s. She had just turned down a promising marriage proposal and wanted to pursue a more adventurous lifestyle. There she met Papa, the love of her life, on a blind date, and they had five children. In 1968, she started her own business, Ski and Sea International, and was often the lone woman in a field of men. I’ll always remember Babby’s tenacity and faith that helped her overcome incredible odds.

The Nelson Family

2. Forgiveness Is Stronger Than Death.

Babby dealt with a lot during her life, including having to bury her 2-year-old daughter, who was killed by a little boy in the neighborhood. She had every right to hold on to that grief and unforgiveness, but she kept on living. Instead of letting that tragedy cripple her, she turned to God to give her supernatural strength. Remembering the power of her decision to forgive, which gave her freedom for the rest of her life, continues to inspire me.

Barbara Nelson, Ski & Sea International Founder, with her daughter Jennifer Miner, and granddaughter Lindsey Miner who run the business today. ©Paul Abdoo All rights reserved

3. If God Gives You a Good Idea, Don’t Give Up!

Babby was a pioneer as she started her business in 1968. She saw the condos being constructed in ski resorts and the fact that the developers needed to supply housewares and home furnishings. So she assembled the right vendors, packaged them up, and the company she founded is still being run by her daughter and granddaughters today. 

4. Never Pay Full Price.

Because life is too short to pass up a good deal at TJs! I remember the joy I would have when I’d get the chance to go on a special shopping trip with Babby. She was a shrewd shopper who was always eager to show off her skills. I recall a Christmas or two when she’d leave the “suggested retail price” of one of her purchases attached to the gift, but who knows what she actually paid! I have such fond memories of shopping for deals together.

5. Hospitality Matters.

Whenever we’d visit Babby in Colorado, she would always have a fruit basket (hopefully with some chocolates sprinkled in) and a small bed present. That little gesture always made us feel so welcome and so loved, and it also helped us avoid arguments deciding who got which bed because Babby already decided for us! 

Babby and Papa with their oldest three granddaughters, 1982

6. Take the Time to Read to Your Children and Grandchildren.

When we would stay at Babby and Papa’s house, we would come into their king-size bed in the morning to read books. Some of my favorite childhood memories are snuggling under the covers while Babby read us Richard Scarry or Bedtime for Frances. She would drink coffee while we would snack on Saltine crackers. The biggest highlight of all would be every so often when she’d throw a Saltine in the air to her lab Nettie who would jump up and catch it.

Babby and Papa Nelson taking a break from the ski slopes.

7. Exercise Matters.

Babby enjoyed hiking, skiing, tennis, and golf most of her life. Even after she lost her eyesight to macular degeneration, she could still smack a golf ball with the best of them. It’s impossible to think about Babby without remembering her love of fitness, sunshine, and the outdoors, all of which contributed to her long and vibrant life.

8. Invest in Good Vitamins.

Even into her late eighties, Babby didn’t need to take any medication, other than a weak dose of Synthroid for her thyroid. Why? She had been religiously taking her vitamins and natural supplements for years. The results speak for themselves. Even into her nineties, her mind was still sharp, and she was relatively healthy. Here’s a link to her Special-K chicken recipe her many great-grandchildren enjoy today!

9. But Don’t Forget About Chocolate!

While Babby was health-conscious throughout her life, she didn’t deprive herself of good chocolate, or the perfect cookie to dip into your afternoon coffee. I have many happy memories of Babby as we would sit in her kitchen, drinking coffee (or decaf), with the perfect biscotti and high-quality chocolate.

Babby and Papa with three of their twenty great-grandchildren (plus three on the way!)

10. Never Underestimate the Power of Listening.

When you told something to Babby, she’d make you feel like you were the most important person in the room. She paid attention, and she cared. After her death, all of the staff spoke about how much they’ll miss the way she listened and spoke to them. I’ll always remember the way she poured life into all of her family by the way she cared. 

11. What You Say Is What You Get.

No matter how potentially dire the situation, Babby always reframed the situation in a positive light. Once when I was an infant, my mother was telling her mother what a crab I was being. Immediately, Babby corrected her: I was not a crab; I was having a rough day. My mom never had “bratty” children; we were always “spirited” or “exhibiting our independent streaks.” To this day, I’m convinced that one of the reasons I genuinely enjoy being with my own children stems from Babby’s unwavering commitment to the power of positive confessions.

12. Prayer Is Powerful.

Each and every morning, Babby prayed for all of her family members. When she told you she was praying for you, she meant it. She would often ask specific follow-up questions about people or situations you told her years earlier. Babby prayed big prayers, some of which are yet to be answered, but I’ll continue remembering her commitment to her faith.

13. There’s a Time to Live, and a Time to Die.

I spoke to Babby ever so briefly the day before she died. She was so tired and in so much pain. I made plans to visit her immediately because I didn’t think she’d be with us much longer. I’m so glad I didn’t book that flight. Babby was ready. She knew what was on the other side. She ran the race with endurance, and it brings me unspeakable joy to think of her and Papa lighting up the dance floors of heaven.

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