There have been so many thoughts running around in my head lately that I just decided I needed to sit down and write. There are many different things that could come out, but for now, this needed to be first.
Last week, I met Kati to pass off some special tickets for the Toy Story 3 premiere in Orlando and do a couple of errands. In passing she said, “Ya know…I think your gray streak is getting bigger.” I think I responded with something like, “Yeah…it probably is.”
For the average 31 year old, I probably have an extraordinary amount of gray hair (although it’s probably closer to white than gray). The funny thing is, this doesn’t really phase me because I started getting it in high school. Yep…you read right…started getting gray/white hair in high school. While it kind of bothered me then, I’ve come to embrace the black and white contrast that is my hair.
It reminds me of a strong woman in my family, who I knew only as a little girl. It reminds me of someone who I know loved God and her family. Honest to goodness, every time someone points out my gray streak, I am reminded of my Grammy because she had jet black hair like mine with a perfect white stripe down the middle. 🙂
Sadly, this picture doesn’t show off the gray streak she had, but it’s the only picture I have of her on my computer. (I don’t think digital cameras were accessible to the general public while she was still with us…maybe we’ll need to scan some in.)
While I knew my Grammy only while I was relatively young, I have a few poignant memories about my time with her:
- She loved her family. I can remember watching her cry over sad situations involving members of her family. I can also remember her fishing with my Grandaddy and playing checkers with my sister.
- She loved her God. I can remember her teaching us about the importance of giving to missions. She helped us save coins throughout the year to give to the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong missions offerings. (Shout out to the Southern Baptists out there!)
- She was a good cook. My love of Chicken and Dumplings was birthed in her home as she made them for us each Christmas Eve. She always had great sweet tea waiting for us too. She also made elderberry jelly and got us involved in snapping fresh green beans (which we did on a large white sheet in the middle of the living room).
- She was a fighter. Unfortunately, many of my memories of my Grammy center on her long battle with cancer. (I believe those memories have fueled my hatred of hospitals, funeral homes and cemeteries over the years.) But, let me tell you…from what I remember, she fought HARD. Even though I can’t give a specific example, probably because I was so young during her fight, I can specifically remember her tenacity during the hardest times of her life.
- And a couple of other random things I remember: She was short (a lot like me) and used to tell me all the time how being small was a good thing; she always gave me silly reasons as to why it was good. … She didn’t like my Grandaddy to watch WWF wrestling while we were around. … She knew her Jesus loved her and she rested in that in the midst of her struggle.
As I’ve thought about this over the last few days (it’s taken me no less than three days to write this post), I reflected on her last day before she met Jesus face to face. I remember so much about that day. So very much.
It was the day we recorded our Family Double Dare episode at Nickelodeon Studios. I remember my parents being hesitant about participating because of my Grammy’s worsening condition. I remember my Grandaddy telling them we should do it. I remember my Dad getting back to his car phone after some time away to see several missed calls. I remember my parents telling us that while we were losing at Family Double Dare, my Grammy had gone to heaven to be with Jesus (although I’m sure they didn’t say it that way… :)). I remember never crying (even though I am right now). I remember feeling relief and peace for her as a naive almost-sixth grader. I remember sitting in a booth in Sonny’s on 17-92 in Sanford watching my Mom cry and saying, “But Mom, she’s in heaven now. She’s ok now.” I remember my Mom saying, through her tears, “I know.”
The days following are a blur in my memory. I remember not understanding why so many people kept coming to my grandparents’ house (and most of them with food). I remember wanting them to leave us alone. I remember sitting on the second row of my grandparents’ church, listening to my youth pastor lead a service for a lady we (and he) loved very much. But still, I remember not crying. I specifically remember not even allowing myself to cry, and my Dad whispering to me, “It’s ok if you want to cry.” But I didn’t. I didn’t really want to. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to celebrate. I knew that’s what she wanted.
As an adult, I’ve often thought back to that day and the happier days that proceeded it. The days when I can remember my Grammy’s smile. The days she was happy.
And, as an adult, I’ve cried about her many, many times. I think it’s because I know as an adult I would have had so much to learn and glean from her. And, because I know she would be so proud of my Mom, and of my Dad, and the two girls they’ve raised, and the two kids my sister is now raising. I am just sure she would have loved Paulie and Cadence. I am certain she would love the beach house and I just know she would have wisdom for me in pursuing the life God has for me. I just know it.
But, even though she’s no longer with us, I know that who she was lives on in each of us. I know that her faith and the way she lived made an impact on all who knew her. I can only hope that I can honor what she lived out before me.
And, that…is why I don’t mind the mention of my gray streak. It reminds me of a woman much stronger than me. A woman who loved her God, her family and her life…and who I can only hope to honor with who I am.