Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Celebrating a lifetime of love

I’m writing with a heavy heart tonight, as my Mamaw, that I introduced many of you to a while back on her 100th birthday, is about to be on her way to her heavenly home.  Of course, we’ve known this day was coming for some time, but as my mom said, “It doesn’t matter how old you are and how old they are, you never want to lose your mom.”  She’s surrounded by her children and medicated to try and make the transition easier, she’s been quiet today.  I’ve had a range of emotions lately, memories from my childhood about growing up on her old farm, sleeping upstairs with her handmade quilts piled on top of me and remembering stories my mom told me about my mamaw’s childhood.  She grew up in Martin County, in rural Kentucky, the eastern coal field region.  She had two brothers and six sisters, growing up and working on the farm where her family raised tobacco, vegetables and her Pa boarded horses.  My mamaw was quite the looker in her day and honestly is still a beautiful woman today.  They had pie dinners back then in her small country community where single girls baked a pie and the young men bid on the pies just to get a chance to sit and eat pie with the girl.  My mamaw said she always had plenty of bidders on her pies J.

She married at 26 and went on to give birth to 10 children, yup, I said TEN y’all.  She has outlived four of them, which is incomprehensible to me, to think of losing one of my children, let alone four.  She taught herself to play guitar and played in the evening on the front porch of the old farmhouse when my mom was growing up, singing Jesus Loves Me, Clementine and other songs.  She was a very hard worker, raising her children on a farm and was a wonderful southern cook, her fried chicken and biscuits were the best.  She was what we would call very “resourceful” in today’s world, which really meant that she somehow fed all of her children with little to no money, living off of the land.  She has always been kind, loving and generous to us all.  I asked her one time how in the world she could have raised all those kids, when I felt overwhelmed with just two.  She said that at some point the older ones started helping take care of the younger ones and they just figured it out.  My mamaw grew up in a time where you didn’t give up, you didn’t expect somebody else to take care of your family and times were very hard, but you made the best out of it.  Without a doubt, that’s where I get my resilience from. 

She has always had an amazing, unshakeable faith in God.  I think it would be hard for most people to have lived her life and still be so bold in their faith, but not my Mamaw.  I have no doubt that the gates of heaven will be wide open to welcome her in, with her children meeting her at the gate.
None of us know what really happens when we die.  Sure, lots of folks have reported about their near death experiences, but nobody really knows.  When you’ve been diagnosed with a life threatening disease, I think it’s only natural to think about dying.  As a Christian though, I am comforted because I have no doubt where I’ll be going and I know this life is only temporary.  Still, your mind wanders when you think about it.  For some reason the movie from the ‘90s, “What Dreams May Come” with Robin Williams comes to mind.  I do think of it that way, “A whole human life is just a heartbeat here in heaven.” It’s a place where anything is possible and you feel overwhelming joy that never ends.  I had this conversation with a good friend recently when I said, “I’m not afraid of dying, I’m only afraid of leaving.”  My fear has always been leaving these sweet baby girls, but never for me, not what I would miss out on, but what I feel THEY would miss out on.  I would never want them to live the rest of their lives without a mommy, without having that person who knows you like nobody else does.  When you’re 16 and you think the world is ending because your boyfriend broke up with you, that one person who can hold your head in their lap, stroke your hair, brush away your tears and tell you stories about when you were a little girl and cried because we took your bunny/lovey away for good, all to just get your mind off of the heartbreak you’re feeling at the moment.  Then, that same one and only person who will tell you stories about when she was a teenager and then follow up with something like, “Who cares about some dumb boy, let’s go shopping, get our hair done and eat ice cream!”  Those are the things I think of and don’t want them to miss out on, I so badly want to be here for all of that.  I also feel pretty solid that I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, but what I know is that I’ve been given a gift by seeing life in this way that many folks never have the opportunity to see.

As I sit here tonight, praying for peace for my Mamaw and our family during this difficult time, I can almost see the preparations that are being made in heaven at this moment for such a bold, life-long servant of God.  I don’t know what happens when you die, but I do absolutely know what happens when you LIVE.  If you truly embrace your family, your friends, your gifts, your struggles, your faith, I think that’s what happens when you really live.  To honor her best, I’m celebrating all of those things today.  What an incredible blessing that we have all been given to have her with us for 100 years.  I feel like I won’t need to wait for the phone call to know that she’s gone, I’ll simply have to listen for the sound of an old guitar with the sweetest voice singing,
“Jesus loves me still today,
Walking with me on my way,
Wanting as a friend to give
Light and love to all who live.

Yes, Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.”

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