The love of a grandparent is special. My grandmother - we called her Nanny - was in her early forties when I was born (same age I am today). From my earliest memories, she has shown me complete unconditional love. She had such a deep spiritual connection with God that it forever changed me. From saying the prayer to invite Jesus into my heart as a 6 year old boy, her belief was so powerful that it became part of my DNA. She embedded in me at an early age that I have a guardian angel watching over me and it has forever shaped the peace by which I have lived my life.
After being in hospice the past week, I was grateful to be able to see her only days before her passing. Up to this point in my life, I had never experienced the reality of losing someone so close to me. I found myself going through these endless highlight reels in my mind. Going through old photo albums in my head and replaying visions of memories or scenes I had seen on VHS or DVDs of my time with her. I re-imagined specific moments with my grandmother anxiously trying to unpack which ones helped evoke all of the emotions I shared with her - happiness, laughter, smells, tastes (she was an amazing cook), the sounds of her singing, the letters she wrote to me in her immaculate cursive, or the meaningful items she had given me. And at the end of every single scene, I would be overcome with great sadness. Sadness that I wouldn't be able to create new ones with her. It's been like having a 50 lb. chest weight I'm carrying around. But then on the flip side, I am so grateful for all of the times I shared with her. And it's a roller coaster of emotions to say the least! So I want to share one of those memories I had with her not just for me to have this to remember and to share with my boys, but also to help others understand how I viewed her.
When I was 15, I relocated to Fernandina Beach (from Atlanta where I lived) to work as a Lawn Boy for my uncle and live with my grandparents. I would be up at 5 am and go downstairs to have breakfast before work. Nanny was always up in the kitchen waiting on me. We had about an hour before my Uncle David would come barreling in the door to tell me to get in the back of his truck (he said I smelled too bad to sit in the cab!) But Nanny would have a lamp on in the kitchen, she'd have the coffee pot percolating with Sanka coffee, she'd have something lightly frying in the pan and something fresh in the oven, and she'd always have some light music on and be humming to the tune. I'd sit down at the square wooden table in the middle of the kitchen, and she would always say something sweet, like 'mornin' darlin.' She would say it in the softest voice in a way that she is helping you ease into the day. She created this atmosphere of heightening all of your senses to help you feel fully alive. She wore this long white night gown, and she'd slide across the wood floors peacefully orchestrating this performance of showing her love and appreciation for you. I remember watching her seemingly float around the kitchen in her nightgown, and I always thought she looked like what an angel would look like.
She had this cassette tape of an old man laughing. No music, no words, just an old man laughing for about 3 minutes. And about 15 seconds in, we would look at each other and we would start laughing too. And we would laugh past the end of the recording and my granddad 'papa' would come in and say 'what in the world is going on out here!?'
So getting to see Nanny, speak to her, and finally touch her (after almost 9 months because of covid restrictions), it was an incredible blessing to be there with her. Even though she couldn't speak, her eyes were open. And there was a moment that she grunted, so I knew that she was hearing me and was aware of my presence.
The love of a grandparent is special. I couldn't help but just thank her over and over again. Thanking her for loving me so much. I just felt absolute unconditional love from her. The perfect love. Godly love. Even though I could feel the 50 lb. weight of losing her, I couldn't help but just have overwhelming gratitude for all of the precious memories with her. And I'm relieved that she can be in heaven and not have pain anymore.
As my grief for Nanny will undoubtedly bubble up on me over the coming days, months, and years and I start to feel that 50 lb. weight burden my heart, I will replay some of those specific memories of Nanny that remind me of all of her wonderful qualities. And I am at peace knowing that she will gladly carry that burden for me now that she is free.
So I encourage each of us this week to think of that someone special that you might have lost. Remember how they made you feel and try and focus on the collateral beauty that was a result of their life. The collateral beauty of love being in the middle of suffering, pain, and loss. By sharing this beauty of our loved one with others, it not only helps us remember and hold dear what we loved about them, but it also helps us share a piece of them with others so that they can pass it on as well.
Nanny's obituary: https://www.legacy.com/amp/obituaries/atlanta/197576978