Pere told me you were sad because you never got the chance to get to know Yaya. So I thought I would tell you a little bit about her. I hope this helps you to get to know her a little.
She was spunky.
She used to sneak out of the house at night with her sisters. There was a big tree outside the upstairs, east window and they would shimmy down to “go out on the town.” Until the night her sister fell and broke an arm. The jig, unfortunately, was up. (By the way, my dad would do the exact same thing when he was a kid… from the same house, and probably the same window. I doubt he knew his mother could do it in a dress. I’m sure his escapades would have seemed quite a bit less impressive had he known.)
When she was in college, she and some girlfriends wanted to learn Spanish. So they went to Mexico to get jobs (Yaya’s parents, apparently, didn’t seem to mind and gave their permission. Who does that?). Unbeknownst to them before their arrival, they needed work VISAS in order to get jobs in Mexico. One Sunday after this discovery, the president of the Mexican mission asked my grandmother why they had such long faces. When my grandmother told him they couldn’t get jobs he told her, “I’ve got a job for you! Two years!”
So Yaya served a mission to Mexico (and learned Spanish, coincidentally).
She was brave.
Yaya fell in love with a Spaniard. They met through letters. Not long after she went to Spain to “confirm her feelings for Juan,” they were married in Paris, France. Eighteen years later she would leave her home, her country and her extended family to follow her leaders’ counsel to help build the Church in Spain. She would spend the next decade doing just that alongside her beloved Juan.
She was smart.
Yaya taught herself shorthand. On her mission to Mexico, she adapted it to Spanish so she could take notes.
She spoke three languages. Juan’s language was Catalan. One day, she said, she was listening to Juan speak with his brother, Jordi, in Catalan and “it just clicked” and she understood. She and Juan decided Catalan would be the language of the home, so their children were raised speaking it.
She was taking computer classes into her 80s. I was editing some photos in Photoshop one day for Yaya and, upon noticing she looked bored, I started explaining what I was doing, hoping it would make it more interesting for her. As I explained she told me, “oh yes, I remember learning that in my computer class.”
She always read books before she gave them to people. The same books she was giving them. As in, she’d buy it for them, read it, and then gift it with a note that said something along the lines of, “it was good!” You could usually tell it had been read. But, seriously, this is such a great idea. Smart.
She was humble.
I learned all of the above things about her on a walk when I was 16. My Avi had a fascinating history, and growing up he would regal us with stories of his childhood and of Spain. And Yaya would quietly let him. She never sought attention and was embarrassed when people would pull her into the lime light. But in one, 30-minute walk I learned that my grandmother was the most interesting woman I had ever met and that I wanted to be just like her.
Yaya’s the reason I decided to go to graduate school and, consequently, on my mission.
My senior year at BYU, while explaining my plans for the future, she asked me, “So are you going to get a master’s degree, then?”
I’d never thought about it until then.
It was while I was in grad school that I decided to go on a mission. I never would have done that if I hadn’t of gone to Florida.
Yaya triggered mine and Travis’ one, and only, DTR (define the relationship).
For one of our date nights, Travis and I decided to play the piano for Yaya. As we said goodbye, Yaya said to Travis, “I’m so glad you’re joining the family!” Then, perhaps realizing that might not be the case quite yet, she said “Oh, I mean, will you be joining the family?”
About 45 minutes later we told each other we wanted to get married.
She was expressive.
My favorite phrase was, and always will be, “Golly!” And no one will ever be able to say it like Yaya could.
She was faithful.
Yaya submitted hundreds, if not thousands, of names to the temple. I can only imagine her reunion in the Spirit World right now. She’s probably wondering when we’re going to finish doing the work for all the rest.
Yaya had already re-listened to half of April conference by the end of May. There’s nothing quite so motivating and inspiring than to have your 90-year-old grandmother say, “Gee, wasn’t conference just wonderful?”
Her middle name was Jean.
I just thought you’d like that.
In all, Betty Jean Gibbs Ventura was a swell lady. While I’m sad to know she’s gone, I am thrilled that she is reunited with my Avi, her brothers and sisters and her parents. They’ve missed her. I guess it’s our turn. But, boy, aren’t eternal families magnificent? I am so grateful for the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, and for my grandmother who taught her children the gospel so that I could have that knowledge.
I hope this helps you get to know her a little. I’m sure you would have loved her. :-)