In the past I’ve written tributes to lost friends George, Mary, and Steve. Today I want to share the tribute I wrote for my friend Pam. She was killed last month in a head-on collision. Pam’s daughters agreed that we should share this, and one of her daughters read the words at Pam’s funeral. Pam’s church was so full I stood at the back and people were seated in the entryway outside of the sanctuary to say goodbye to this remarkable woman. As the terrible shock is wearing off, the true loss is being felt and it’s important to remember Pam and the Pam-sized hole that has been left in our community. Pam mattered and her legacy matters, so I’m honored to share a little of her character with you.
Also, you can see a video of Pam here: 9 News Nine Who Care Award
Pam possessed character, integrity, and a peaceful dignity that is both honorable and rare. She was a unique and special woman because everything she did, she did with love and sincerity.
In Sunday School we were taught the parable of the mustard seed and that it is a metaphor for the strength of faith. This is the parable:
He [Jesus] said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and put in his own garden. It grew, and became a large tree, and the birds of the sky lodged in its branches.”
— Luke 13:18-19
The mustard seed can also serve as a metaphor for life and the expression of love, especially Pam’s life. She began life as a little girl, as a small seed. As a young woman, a seedling, she faced some difficult weather and losses, but she weathered those storms to become a mighty tree.
Like the tree, Pam gave shelter and sustenance, both literally and spiritually not only to her own children and grandchildren, but to the many children, like little birds, who flitted through her life. With her arms, like branches, she supported an entire school. With her roots deep in her community, she served others in every way that she was able.
Like the tiny mustard seed, Pam was humble and unassuming. She was proud and protective of her children. The fact that an entire elementary school and by extension an entire community called her “Grandma” Pam speaks boldly to her love of children, especially her own beautiful grandchildren.
Though on the surface Pam could seem light and smiling, she had a depth that made her wise and kept her centered. She was an anchor for her family, our school, and our neighborhood. She was a beacon for her girls, seeing them through the storms of their own lives.
Pam was pure in her profound kindness and generosity. Though she had struggles and challenges throughout her life, she was beyond question one of the most generous people I ever met, giving of herself without hesitation.
Once I saw a sign that read, “It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.” Pam was the embodiment of that sentiment. She gave of herself not to be recognized but to contribute because she could help while being close to the people she loved. I think when she won the 9 Who Care Award she was a little embarrassed by the attention. She didn’t care about others because she wanted recognition, she cared because that’s who she was, through and through.
An entire community will miss Pam and her genuine spirit. She was proud to be a Fort Collins native, and Fort Collins should be proud to have had Grandma Pam as one of its very best daughters. But the thing Pam was most proud of was her family. Grandma Pam leaves behind a beautiful and loving family, and my greatest sadness comes not from my personal loss of a dear friend, but from their extraordinary loss of the rock that Pam was. Pam was the fulcrum that balanced her family.
There was a difference between the Pam I spent time with in the work room and the Pam I saw with her grand-kids. When I first met Pam she had four grandchildren at Linton, and I saw her light up when any of them walked into a room. Every time I met a member of Pam’s family, she was so proud to introduce them, she literally beamed. Pam followed her grandchildren in and out of school like a proud mother hen. Pam’s posture rose when she was with her beloved family. She stood straighter, taller, prouder. She glowed with love. Pam didn’t have to tell anyone she was proud of her kids and grandkids, even though she did, because you could see it written all over her face and in the light of her eyes. I wish I could have seen Pam with ALL of her children and grandchildren. I am sad it took this tragedy for me to have the chance to meet more of them. I hope they all know how deeply she loved them and that her love will stay with them, even though she cannot be with us here in the flesh.
Pam shared stories of her parents, of her siblings, nieces, and nephews, and her cousins. Her pride in family was not reserved to the children she made, it extended to all of her family roots. Pam loved you all.
One of the things I most admired about Pam was how she could share heartbreaking tales without bitterness. Hers was a soft and pliable wisdom that is more powerful than any brittle anger could ever be. Pam had empathy and compassion for everyone and is a model for all of us. Each of us was blessed by Pam’s life and the love she brought to so many. Though we have anguish at losing her, we will never lose the love she shared with us.
At Linton our children are taught the PRIDE Code, and Pam embodied that code. Perseverance. Respect. Integrity. Diversity. Excellence. These are all things that Pam embraced and reflected back to others.
Yet, the most appropriate words I can use to describe Pam are good, generous and genuine. Her genuineness and authenticity made her like the mustard seed that became a tree. She loved because her heart told her to love. She forgave because her soul told her to forgive. She listened because she had a stillness and capacity for the needs of others. She sheltered because she saw the need others had for her shelter and extended her arms with gentle grace to embrace those in need. She fed the hungry, not for her public or self-image, she fed them just because they were hungry.
Pam was good, not because she wanted people to tell her she was good. Pam was good because it was in her very nature, it was the type of seed from which she began and the type of strong and rooted tree she became. Pam’s beauty and goodness were not a result of effort, they are simply a reflection of her being. She was the real deal.
These attributes of generosity, goodness, and genuineness were Pam’s gifts in life, and they are the legacy she left us. To honor this amazing woman, let us take these seeds and plant them in our own hearts. Let us take what Pam has taught us and left us and continue to make the world a better place. We can do good in the world, not to make ourselves feel better, but because it’s the right thing to do. It’s exactly what Pam would have done.