Tags: grandma


The Straw that Stirs the Drink

And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the victory’s won,
Even death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.
-He Leadeth Me (Hymn)

Our three voices melted together in the southern style that Grandma loved so dearly. These two talented women on either side of me had known her for twenty years and generously gave of their talents to the joyous gospel tune that would have thrilled her heart.

"When I die, I want them to sing at my funeral," Grandma had declared countless times after a rousing performance by the mother-daughter duo in a Sunday service.

"Ok, Grandma," I would always respond, knowing full well that death could never claim a woman so strong and vivacious.

I never thought two falls and a bruised brain would be enough to steal her from me. And yet, less than a month after my engagement, I found myself in a church full to bursting with those who had been touched by the vibrant woman I called Grandma. I was in awe of the impact of one life on so many and wondered who else would be in the room if she had remained on this Earth for as long as we had all hoped? Surely an extra 15 years would have allowed her to share her broad smile and biting wit with new friends. My teenage children might have been sitting on the first row, hands entangled with those of their older cousins, hearts broken at the loss of their vivacious great-grandmother.

I realized with a sudden sense of irony that there never would have been a right time for her to die. I would miss her fried chicken, tightly curled silver hair, and bell-like laugh whether she had left me last week or 15 years from now. As transient as my life had been, Grandma was the solid bridge that kept me connected to home.

As I reclaimed my seat on the stage, my mercifully dry eyes fell on my sweet mother who stood to deliver a tribute to the woman who had given her life. Their relationship had been troubled at times, but grief remembers no conflict and the loss of a parent creates a chasm that swallows harsh words. She spoke of a bond forged later in life by a shared faith and commitment to a family that struggled to keep its head above water.

It didn't take long for us all to drown.

Death unmasks the monsters long dormant in those who cannot face it. They emerge, angry and hungry, tearing family ties with their claws of bitterness and greed. Two of the three men that called my mother "sister" betrayed us with their words, accusing her of treachery and forever destroying the tenuous peace that had existed for so long. It didn't matter that she was the one who had moved in with Grandma, feeding her meals and dealing with the doctors while they retreated to safer places. Their rage at the universe for stealing their mother was satisfied by punishing my mother and fleeing with the material possessions left in the wreckage. The guilt and shame they try to hide has left our family fractured, the empty chairs at holiday meals reminding us that we have lost more than one piece of our puzzle.

I don't believe in closure anymore. By definition, that term conjures up the image of closing a door and moving forward as you were before. Loss is not like that. Grief is the process of letting a new reality absorb into your soul. As time goes on, the pain lessens, but the change is permanent. As much as I would like to forever leave them all behind me and travel on without regard for their existence, I don't believe that is possible. These turbulent times have shaped my understanding of family and how to maintain the foundation no matter the circumstance. Freedom has come from realizing that we all viewed Grandma as the glue rather than laboring to maintain relationships independent of her. This lesson has stirred within my heart a sense of urgency to protect the family I do have from the ravages of these eventual tragedies. Leaving the door open to look back and remember without bitterness is what will bring true healing and help me to grow my family with care. I am learning to wish the same for them.

I think Grandma would be proud.

**My intersection parter for this week is the lovely and talented

Food Memory

Whenever I'd come home from several months away at college, Grandma would always make sure to have fried chicken and potato salad for me practically as soon as I stepped off the plane. I always looked forward to tasting happiness in the form of vinegary batter and goodness in the creamy, starched dish. Every grandchild had a special dish they'd receive when arriving at her house, but being the favorite had its perks. It didn't matter if my plane landed at 11:30 at night. We'd always make a quick stop by Grandma's to say hello and retrieve the tasty treats.

Holidays were another affair altogether. Even as we all grew older, cousins married (thus spending some Christmases elsewhere), and others moved away, the fist southern bell always insisted on making far too much food all by herself. If you piled only one plate high with food and were unable to return to the bountiful table for a second helping, you were considered by Grandma to be ill. (I was never accused of this since I often ate my own weight in spiral ham, mashed potatoes, fried lace cornbread and rich chocolate pie).

In August of this year, my wonderful grandmother, still so full of life and joy, went to Heaven. Everyone was transformed in that moment, forever altered by a senseless accident that cut short the life of a vibrant human being. Two of my uncles no longer speak to my mother or I. My grandfather ran to Florida to hide from the memories and is now living with one of those uncles who tells him daily how my mother and I are just money hungry, evil women who don't really love him. One of my cousins who was always jells of the attention Grandma gave me didn't even speak to me at her viewing.

The saddest part of all though is there will be no more loud laughing after too many glasses of wine. No more seafood dinners at our favorite holiday haunts. No more crab salad on crackers after the Christmas Eve service.

And no more fried chicken and potato salad.