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A Life Well Lived: Lessons My Grandma Taught Me

A Life Well Lived: Lessons My Grandma Taught Me

”But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thess. 4:12-14

I think most people, even those who had never met her, knew her by “Grandma Duggar.” Most probably didn’t even know her first name (Mary). 

She was everyone’s Grandma and proud of it too!

As kids, I remember grandma pointing out her birthplace…under a tree where a house once stood in the small town of Gentry, Arkansas. She’d reminisce of standing out on the dirt road as a little girl with some of her siblings (she was one of 4), and watching soldiers march down the road practicing their drills. 

She fell in love with Jimmy Lee “J.L.” Duggar and they got married and had two children, my Aunt Deanna and my dad, Jim Bob. Grandma and Grandpa were quite the couple! We joked that grandma had to keep grandpa in line since he was such a kid at heart. She was certainly a great example to all of us of sticking to the marriage vows, “in sickness and in health,” as she cared for grandpa until he passed away of cancer ten years ago. I remember her telling us a story….when g’ma was having contractions at home and about to head to the hospital to have their first baby, g’pa was so nervous and anxious to leave that he said, “Mary, come on! We’ve gotta go!…Mary, if you don’t hurry up I’m gonna leave without you!” (lol…a lot of good that would do!). They were a hoot. Even though they picked at each other sometimes, we knew they loved each other and losing g’pa was definitely hard.

My grandma taught me to thank God in every situation, realizing that only He can see the big picture. She would say, “Praise the Lord” all the time, and even talked about how thanking God for tough things that happened helped her release it to Him and acknowledge that he was ultimately in control. She was a great example to me and displayed many of the character qualities of the virtuous woman described in the Bible (in Proverbs 31). She was an amazing working mom and grandma (she never really retired!), great at business (she was a long-time realtor) and was always looking for ways to serve others. 

Grandma lived at the big house with us for awhile before I got married, then we lived with her for a few months when Derick, the boys and I were in transition back from the states before and after I had Samuel. During those times, she was always helping us out by cleaning, washing laundry (she could get stains and odors out of anything!), making eggs for everyone in the morning, hand sewing a hole quickly on-the-go, playing with and watching Israel, etc. And if we were sick or had an ailment, grandma would be right there with her elderberry juice or oil of oregano to help fix you right up! We were blessed with so many great memories together! She loved to shop and could find the best deals! Side note…she snored so loud she woke herself up sometimes…and anyone else in the same room, so sometimes there was a debate on who would share the room when we were traveling. lol One time I remember Amy volunteered, and then came over to our room after grandma fell asleep. lol. (And yes, she eventually listened and got a breathing machine for sleeping). 

She was such a supportive mom and grandma and pretty adventurous too. She was my Aunt Deanna and Cousin Amy’s biggest cheerleader in their music careers and businesses and traveled frequently to keep up with their busy schedules. And anyone who knew her well, knew of her love for Braum’s and their varieties of ice cream (she loved chocolate, cappuccino, and more!)…and I think she had some at least every day!  

My grandma showed me by example that we must love others more than we love ourselves! She would go out of her way to talk to people about Jesus. She was a real Christian and lived out her relationship with God for all to see. She also loved discussing the end times and Jesus’ imminent return. Every thanksgiving when we’d go around the room and say what we were thankful for, Grandma’s first thing was always the same, “I’m thankful for God’s faithfulness and Salvation through Jesus Christ.” If my grandma were meeting you for the first time, she’d probably ask you during the conversation a very specific question….one that she asked hundreds, if not thousands of people, “If you died today and stood before Jesus and he asked you why he should let you into heaven, what would your answer be?” 

Yesterday, I was in disbelief when I got the word that she had tragically died. I’m still having a hard time processing the reality of her passing. When I think about all the lessons my grandma taught me (this post certainly doesn’t cover them all!), I know the greatest lesson she would want me to remember and pass along would be this: 

Nothing is more important than having a real relationship with Jesus Christ (repent of your sins, confess Jesus as your Lord, let him take control of your life and living for him with hope of life with him forever after death!). Life here on earth is short. We are never guaranteed another day! Do you know where you would go if you died today? What would your answer be if Jesus asked you why he should let you into heaven (hint: just being a “good person” or just repeating some words without actual heart change doesn’t work.) Read below if you want the answer! 

RIP, Grandma Duggar! <3 You are greatly missed! Life here on earth is less sweet without you here! But heaven is all the sweeter and we know you’re enjoying it now with Jesus and grandpa!  

Question: “If you died today and stood before Jesus and he asked you why he should let you into heaven, what should your answer be?”

The Answer is mentioned in Titus 3:5-7: “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” 

This means to be able to give that answer you have to: 

  1. Acknowledge that God created everything, and that we are his creations. Romans 1:20-21 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[a] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
  2. Realize that you are a sinner and repent of your sins turn to God and away from sin. Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:10 “None is righteous, no, not one” 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  3. Understand that the penalty for sin of any degree before a just God is death and separation from God in Hell. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death;” Rev. 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
  4. Understand that Jesus (God in the flesh), came to earth as a man and lived a sinless life to take our place on the cross/pay the price for us/took our punishment for those who accept it. Romans 5:8 “But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 
  5. Confess with your mouth that you believe all of these things. Romans 10:9-10 “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” 
  6. Turn from your sin and ask Jesus to take control of your life/become the Lord of your life/tell you how to live (He tells you through his word). Romans 10:13 “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!” 

Then, live the rest of your life with confidence, humility and gratefulness to the one (Jesus) who saved you and tell others about him! Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of words, so that no one may boast.” Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, not anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Crist Jesus our Lord.” Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Get baptized in obedience to what the Bible commands and to show others by outward expression how you have been changed. Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Read your Bible and pray daily to grow your relationship with God.

Join a local church that teaches from the Bible where you can worship and fellowship with other Christians weekly. We are not meant to live life in isolation! We need community and fellow believers. 

Don’t wait to think about these things! Your life depends on it! 

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” 

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved!”

Does being “good enough” get you to heaven? Watch this video.

The photos above are considered the property of the Dillard Family and may only be used with their written permission. Please request permission to use the photos.


  1. Virginia

    When we watch your show or see her in pictures you can just see and feel the love she had for all of you and for anyone! She had such pride in her eyes. I am so sorry to hear of her passing and my condolences to you and your family!

  2. Veronica

    I’m sorry for your all’s loss praying for comfort!

  3. Gina

    Thank you so much, Jill, for sharing so soon with us. Praying the peace of God for you all.

  4. Christine

    Dear Jill ~ I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing such a sweet tribute to Grandma Duggar – a blessing to get to know a little more about her. What a wonderful example she is of a life well-lived for Christ! I have enjoyed watching her, as well as the rest of your family, over the years. Thinking of you all and praying for you as you say “good-bye for now” to Grandma Duggar.

  5. Christin

    I’m so sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful tribute to your grandma. I’m sure she was very proud of you.

  6. JAy

    Isaiah 57:1 is the one that has helped me when I have lost someone I dearly loved.

  7. Marion

    A beautiful tribute to a woman who spread and gave so much love. All of you will be in our prayers and thoughts. She will be missed but never forgotten.
    God Bless
    Marion,Joan and Marilyn

  8. Annie

    I’m so sorry for your loss Jill. I have been watching your family’s tv programmes for well over a decade, and kind of feel like I know you all, though obviously I don’t! You are all in my thoughts and prayers at this sad time. Grandma Mary was obviously a very special woman of God. May God wrap his loving arms around you as you grieve. xxx

  9. Kristen Daniel / Kristen Wright

    It blesses my Heart to Hear You preach a message as sound as this without reservation or fear. I’m a grandma too. The Duggars will now be defended in this world. You come against them you Die. That is the Holy Will Of God. The Lord Hath Spoken it And it WILL come to pass.

    DEBORAH Duggar Wright (Mother & Judge)

  10. Edna

    I can only imagine what her eyes are seeing right now. I can only imagine the glory she’s feeling right now.

  11. Susan

    I don’t know what my answer would be if Jesus asked me that question today. What I do know, however, is that through you and thanks to her it has made me ponder that question. I must admit, typically when I read posts like this I skim through them because death affects me emotionally very much. I thoroughly read your post twice. You had a beautiful grandma. You have a beautiful family. You have amazing parents, and they have raise you all in the absolute best way. I want to reassure you that people all over our morning with you today and in the days ahead. We are also rejoicing because we know that grandma Duggar is now with Jesus and is the happiest she’s ever been. Continued prayers and thoughts.

    • Derick & Jill

      Thank you. <3

  12. Beth Zimmerman

    I am Saddened by the loss of your Dear Grandma Mary. I am Sorry you have lost an important and Beautiful part of your family. My thoughts and prayers go out to your family for God’s comfort during this difficult time.

  13. Regina Shea

    Thank you for sharing your special memories of Grandma Duggar. And a special thank you for sharing the gospel. I know your grandma is smiling down at you for doing that!

  14. Marie H.

    That was a beautifully written tribute! May the Lord comfort you at this time of loss.

  15. Amy Italiano

    Jill, I am so sorry for your loss. But I am so thankful Grandma is with our precious Savior, Jesus. What a comfort to you and your family. I pray God will give you all the grace and mercy to face each coming day and that He will bless you with peace that only He can give. She would be so proud of the beautiful tribute you have written and the message of salvation you have included! Much love to you~


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