last year, my mom called me and told me my grandma died. only she didn’t actually say that or maybe she did. at any rate, last year my grandmother did not die. i was embarrassed and delighted that i had got it wrong. It was sad, nonetheless because my aunt B died instead and this was after a year of 5 losses for my extended family. people were gutted. i was gutted even though i live so far away. these are the people who gave me reality and showed me the world. it hurt. it hurts, even the possibility of losing the ones we love.
so i promised myself since she lived i would visit her and delight in her. my whole(little) family and we did. it was such a blessing. a second chance. i am not sure i used it to it’s full advantage. it’s hard to see the people who once were so big in your world become old and frail.
i forgot my grandmother was old. I forgot that human life is fragile. That we are but tiny breaths on a great big planet.
i always thought my grandmother, given the chance, could stare down a lion. she always had such a ferocious spirit. my love of nature came from running under her knees as she gardened. i would carefully put seeds in the ground under her toolage.
i bit into my first bell pepper straight from the garden under her eyes, learned to shuck corn and peas. we went fishing and ate potted meat and sardines with crackers.
we are a people without a paper trail. there are no endless pictures of me and her running around under the cedar of Lebanon or pine trees. there is no photo of the skillet she use to make biscuits and hot water cornbread. no one wrote down her collard green recipe. i don’t know what happened to her crazy quilt but i have a pocketful of stories about the woman who changed my life.
we live in a world that says we matter only if certain criteria are met. my grandmother was not sanitized. she lived a wild life, at times.
she loved the lord. she would wake up in the morning and sometimes sing old spirituals. she lived a hard life. she loved dr. pepper. she was the first person who told me i mattered and that i was lovable. she would kiss me on the jaw and hug me hard.
i don’t know if i ever repayed her for all her kindness and love. i don’t think one can do such a thing. as she lays fighting for her life….i want to remember her. i can’t see her at the moment i can’t hold her and the fact is i may never touch or lay eyes on her again. that’s hard to swallow.
we grew up in dirt and trees. black country folks doing country folk things. there was a bible in our home, secrets in our hearts and prayers on our lips.
it was not a glamorous world. poverty and country living. no matter what Instagram tries to make you believe– being poor in America is not an aesthetic. but it taught me so much about what matters and somehow i forgot. i forgot that i am tied to a world dissolving. one where people die. where i too, will die. and everyone i love and even those i despise will die.
in the church there is an answer for everything. i once asked my bible study leader if i would be reunited with my father in heaven and she said no because he was not of the right domination. i quit that faith.
it was not the faith of my grandmother. they were simple country folk, who believed if you loved God and followed Jesus that was enough. Sometimes they rolled in tongues and I think they believed in miracles. surely, they had seen a few being as they were.
there was always something to testify about. even as they walked through trials and poverty. there was the kindness of their neighbors who knew their name and their stories. there was the fragile earth beneath their feet and the wide sky full of pine trees. and just beyond that the heaven their hearts longed for.
we can categorize and trendify anything but Jesus doesn’t need us to build our own kingdom on earth. the old timers knew that. that’s why they learned their neighbor’s name and would come over and pluck and hoe rows. if you needed something someone would show up with a little something to help you on your way. God didn’t need an announcement, He/she worked miracles. fish and loaves. kisses on the cheek. people who made those who felt the least feel loved. ordinary magic or in my case, a grandmother.
edited to say: they took her off the life support and she woke up to her family surrounding her. i’m keeping the tense because i am writing about our relationship as a trip down memory-lane. i don’t know what will happen but it feels like a such a miracle to get this stage. life is precious… love your people hard.