The last few years had been hard for my grandmother and the entire family. She wasn’t as strong and healthy as she used to be and the last few years had been filled with more and more doctor visits, hospital stays and weekend rotations of family members staying with her while she was sick. None of that though was as hard as this past week has been. We lost the heart and soul of our family late last week and to say it’s been devastating would be an understatement.
There is no amount of preparation you can do to get ready to lose someone. Even though I knew how sick my grandmother was I didn’t think anything would actually happen. Maybe because I just simply did not want to believe it, or that when I thought about her I remembered the happier times when she was healthy, or maybe because she was one of the most stubborn and strongest woman I ever knew and I never pictured any part of my life without her.
My grandmother had 10 kids and raised them mostly on her own after my grandfather left. Through that she remained strong and with the help of her family and later husband raised the younger ones. With 10 kids you can only imagine the scene that must have been. My mom’s the oldest child and had five of her own so when I was growing up any outing was a big ordeal so multiply that by two and I’m shocked everyone still has all their fingers and toes.
My grandmother was known as Mom to everyone in our family and out of it. Many people get confused when I talk about my grandmother because I call her Mom without even thinking about it, so I have to explain who Mom is and why that’s her name. We grew up calling her Mom probably because the youngest of her kids were still around in school when we were growing up so that was the only name that was used. She was Mom to all 10 kids, 25 grandchildren and really anyone else that knew her. She treated everyone she met as one of her own and always managed to leave everyone with a smile on their face. She had the biggest heart and genuinely cared about everyone she met.
Mom worked hard to make sure she passed that trait along to the rest of us. And while my grandmother was the sweetest, she was also one of the sassiest southern woman one would meet. And it would be a disgrace not to mention that side of her. Because I think that is what made her Mom and that is another trait that she passed along and I wouldn’t change the world for it. You see she was stubborn and didn’t take any crap, but that’s a characteristic I think is valuable to have (maybe not to her full stubbornness but a little bit is good 🙂 ).
She would call you out on something before you even got through the front door. She was not afraid to share her opinion about someone and definitely not shy to share it with that person. While she would tell you if she thought your opinion was dumb she also would listen and sometimes be swayed into changing her own or agree to disagree (unless it was about Trump). She was a unique woman with a heart of gold with an extra side of sass but that’s who made her who she was and who everyone loved.
She had a talent for everything and was very crafty. One Easter she got a little carried away with these Easter eggs she was making out of yarn and glue. they were everywhere in the house and I don’t even know what she did with them all, probably gave them away to people, which she did a lot. She was the most generous person and she never did anything small. Mom loved to celebrate pretty much anything – and holidays were a big event in our family.
Mom was known around town for how sweet and loving she was and by her extravagant yard decorations every holiday. Signs and statues lighted up the front yard (and rooftop) for Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas (those were the most extravagant). She would wrangle the grandkids to bring down the decorations from the attic and backyard to cover the whole entire house, inside and out, in holiday spirit. It happened like clock-work, and she had a specific spot for each statue. She used to have these wood and plexi glass boxes that she would create “Santa’s Workshop”; filled with elves that would be putting together toys. People would come visit her house at night to walk through the yard and see everything. She stayed up-to-date with whatever new outdoor decoration too. A few years ago they came out with those blow up statues that were half the size of the house that of course she got two of for Christmas – a Santa and a snowman. But she loved it and so did everyone else.
For Halloween she didn’t just buy bags of candy to pass out by the handful to tricker-treaters but would have an assembly line of the grandkids and aunts to put together lil goodie bags filled with candy, holiday pencils, erasers and toys. She would make sure we made one for all the kids on the street, the neighbors, the mail person, the people down at the dialysis center my papa used to go to, the hair salon, the employee’s at the Bi-Lo and Alex’s, and anyone else she came in contact with in the last six months. Really, it felt like we were making gift bags for all of Charleston, but she loved it and people loved her for those little acts of kindness.
She loved holidays and always brought our family together for them all. I think that’s what I’ll miss the most. Her house wasn’t that big but she would always find a way to accommodate our ever-growing family. Everyone would come in from out-of-town for the holidays they could make. It was the few times a year that we were all together and those moments grew near and dear to my heart, especially after my little sisters and I moved to Michigan. Those were really the only times we got to see everyone together. As everyone grew up and moved away those were the days that everyone got together to share what they were up to in their life and reminisce on past events. It’s going to be strange not heading to Mom’s house and seeing 15 cars strategically parked around holiday decorations in the yard. I hope that we’ll keep those traditions alive still because that’s what Mom would have wanted.
So I wanted to share a letter I wrote to Mom that I never got the chance to give to her but I know she’s reading this now.
Thank you for everything you did for me.
Thank you for teaching me how to be kind at an early age.
Because you will not get anywhere in life without kindness.
Thank you for tutoring me after school.
Because a good education will get you farther than any man will.
Thank you for sticking up for me and being on my side.
And for punishing me when I deserved it to teach me that poor actions have consequences.
Thank you for instilling values and morals in me.
And for holding me to them every day.
Thank you for being supportive to all my relationships.
And for telling me they weren’t good enough for me when they broke my heart.
Thank you for always making me feel special when I was down.
And for giving me the confidence to pick myself back up again.
Thank you for teaching me how to be stubborn.
Because I’m allowed to be on things that are important to me.
Thank you for teaching me how to compromise.
Because some things are just not worth fighting over.
Thank you for showing me love my whole life.
And that it’s never too late to find it.
Thank you for showing me that family is everything.
And they’ll give you the love and support you need even in your darkest days, especially in your darkest days.
But above all else, thank you for being Mom.
I love you so much and will carry you with me every day.
Until we meet again,
Your (true) favorite