Go be with Jesus. We will be ok until we are with you again.
Do you remember having heart surgery? I do. It’s not because it saved your life….it’s because that is my earliest memory of you saying to me, “love you.” Don’t get me wrong. You always expressed your love-through selfless giving, unconditional love through your actions, through exhibiting the greatest work ethic I’ve ever seen, and through your great love story with Grandma.
Here’s the thing…I know you are tired. I need you to keep fighting. I need to hear that you love me through a gentle tear stinging your eye, and I need to know that you want us around more often every time we have to say goodbye.
I love you, Granddaddy. Thank you for making sure I know that you love me, too. Probably way more deeply than you’ve ever been able to articulate. But, I know. And, I’ll never forget.
A point of pride has been my “color-blindness.” And, that was stupid.
Too often, white people say this to somehow prove they aren’t racist; in fact, it shows a complete dismissal of beautiful people of color. To say you are color blind is to say: I DON’T see you.
I’ve spent some time intentionally remembering black people who have had a direct impact on me.
I quickly realized that my black friends and mentors over my lifetime contributed to the person I am today. They’ve shaped the better parts of me, even though I didn’t have nearly as much to give them in return.
This is a tribute to them.
L. S. – Thanks for being my childhood partner in crime and putting up with me being so incredibly bossy. Even though they got wise to us after a couple of grades and separated us, you are still one of my first best friends with the best braids and hair clips. Your mom showed me so much kindness and love, too. I’m forever blessed by you both.
R. B. – In middle school, you left me. But, that’s because your Mom left you. I’m thankful for your friendship, even though it was cut short. You and your amazing family showed me (and our friends) how to celebrate life and the Lord in the midst of a great loss. I’ve never forgotten you….and neither has my Mom. One day after school, we were walking together and you asked for my phone number, and I wouldn’t give it to you. You replied that you’d look me up in the phone book (remember those?) and asked for my daddy’s name so you could find me. My Mom and I still laugh about it to this very day. I don’t think I’ve ever really gotten over when you had to leave us.
J. K. – To one of the most hardworking, loving, funny, and kind men in my life, thank you for showing us (all of the ungrateful, spoiled rotten brats in school) what a strong work ethic looks like. Thank you for not putting up with our shit but cleaning it up anyway. When you were tired, you still smiled, laughed, kept on working, and kept on talking. Like so many who came before me and after me, we love you so much. Thank you for taking care of us and for loving us, unconditionally.
D – Thank you for not leaving me for dead at UT Knoxville, when we traveled from MTSU to meet your friends. Thanks for having an illegal rabbit (and loving my illegal hamster) in our college apartment, going with me to get a piercing when I lost a bet, and for showing me that people like drawing maps so much that they major in it in college. Most importantly, thank you for letting me know that we will never go to a club again due to my lack of rhythm and coordination. You were my best friend in college and a terrible influence, but you cared about me and protected me, even when I didn’t deserve it.
S. A. – My first boss and mentor. You showed me what a strong black leader looked like. You inspired me to not be complacent in my professional and spiritual journey. You inspired me to aspire to greater things that I had not considered up until that point in my life. Thank you.
A. L. – I almost didn’t leave that first job because of how much I loved working with you. Thank you for all of the customer service advice and personal chats. Thank you for putting up with a silly kid trying to figure out how to work like an adult.
S. R. – Thank you for humoring me in 9th grade as your student teacher and for making me laugh. Then, you showed me and so many others, what it means to be a strong, black influence in the classroom and in many high/middle school sports. So many computer science students and so many athletes have a tenacity to pursue their passions because they have seen it modeled in you, in someone like them. What an immeasurable contribution to education and into the lives of young people. You inspire me.
L. P. – You taught me to find complete joy in everything in life. Your beauty, ambition, and light in this world, that can be so dark at times, is incredible. You wear your heart on your sleeve, you are fearless, and you are one of the kindest souls I know. You are love – you show it in all you do and for all you meet.
S. B. – Strength. Resilience. Bravery. Courage. I want to be more like you. Everyday. I admire you for who you are and all you stand for.
A. W. – Caring. Selfless. Driven. Patient. You show me every day what it means to be a good human. I aspire to have your level of selflessness, but I fail way too often. Your kindness and humility in all you do is inspiring me to be better.
J. L. – Innovator & Creator – You remind me to dream big and know that the Lord is guiding us in His time and in His way. I appreciate how you model ambition to show us all to never give up our aspirations as we seek after Him.
S. D. – Thank you for modeling what it is to be a strong woman and loving caregiver. Your laugh is infectious and your style is impeccable. You remind me that there is only so much we can do, and we have to bring our best every single day.
D, M, SL, M, E, Q, C, K, K – Thank you for sharing your painful stories. Thank you for putting up with this unaware white girl and allowing me and so many others to ask questions. Thank you for patiently correcting us when we make dumb comments about systemic racism today, like it is something new. Thank you for mentoring me in leadership, diversity, awareness, bravery, and perseverance. I know you are hurt and tired, yet you continue to educate and hope. I’m inspired. Thank you for not giving up.
I see you.
I’m not color blind; instead, I’m seeing more color than I ever have before. And, none of this is about me, but I need you to know, I’m better for it.
There is great value in silence.
This simple epiphany is brought to you by an early morning where I’m introspectively silent and outwardly silent with the exception of the sounds of the morning birds and an occasional grunt from the cows in the pasture. One might attribute this to removing myself from the distractions of the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, the string of news stories about pandemics, emails, text messages, and all social media. But, I can be just as distracted sitting on my deck in solitude. What I’ve learned is that silence is intentional. Silence is the gateway for true discovery. Erling Kagge, author of Silence in the Age of Noise, assisted in recognizing these important truths about silence. He states, “I tend to think about silence as a practical method for uncovering answers to the intriguing puzzle that is yourself, and for helping to gain new perspective on whatever is hiding beyond the horizon.”
I’ve found that simply getting away and being quiet isn’t the same as experiencing the power of silence. To be in a state of silence, one must enter into the experience with the intention of being vulnerable and courageous. Experiencing the joy of discovery in silence is ultimately rewarding but can be painful. In a true experience, we cannot expect to only find truths (or pieces to the puzzle) that bring enlightening, positive warm fuzzy feelings. We must also grapple with the growing pains and the admission that negativity has brought about harmful habits as we cope with living our lives.
As much as I’d love to pause here and move into a perfect example of this, I can’t. This experience is so intimately personal that individuals uniquely experience it and decide if it needs to be shared.
Kagge mentions that “God is in the silence.” For me, I need to let my faith guide me more in my discovery of who I am. I’m trying to read the Bible more. In the midst of learning about silence, I came across this verse as Moses is leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses says, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:14 (Thanks for meeting me where I am, God, and reminding me of this important truth when I am most open to receiving it.)
“Silence is never old under the sun, it is new everytime.” -Erling Kagge, author of Silence in the Age of Noise
Someone told me that I should write Grandma’s eulogy.
The child inside wanted to ask why. The teenager inside wanted to be angry and scream.
The adult I am wanted to burst into tears from a place of incredible devastation and from a place of honor for being asked.
I know that nothing is permanent in this world, but I’ve always hoped that the universal law didn’t apply to my Grandparents who always seemed invincible.
I’ll write the eulogy-I’ll be a mess while doing it just as I am every single time I craft one of these posts. As hard as it is, I feel a sense of obstinate ownership of the words as I don’t think anyone else is capable of talking about my Grandma like I am.
I’ll write the eulogy-And foolishly hope to never need it.
Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of meeting up with members of the community who know my Grandparents. I’m unsurprised to learn how much they have touched so many lives for good, and I am so proud and thankful to have grown up witnessing their strong example of living out lives that seek to glorify God, serve others, and love unconditionally. From giving of their time and resources to their home church to paying for others’ to achieve their educational goals, my Grandparents have always valued education, respected others, and have taken care of each other and all of their family members so well. They have always been there for me with advice and provision in ways that span cultural experiences, financial assistance, and many, many lunches and dinners. My Granddaddy rarely let a moment escape to tell stories, give advice, and reprimand, if necessary. Some of my family members and I would always brace ourselves for the next lecture or opportunity for these storytellers to impart their wisdom. At times, an eye roll or giggle might occur when we could see one of these opportunities on the horizon.
Granddaddy now struggles through some of the details of his experiences, and unlike in the past, my Grandma can’t help. She oftentimes struggles to form coherent thoughts and speech. Grandma has always been quiet and even emotionally unavailable, at times. Traits that I inherited, so I understand. But now, she is involuntarily absent. I haven’t gotten the chance to learn everything I wanted from her, but what I have learned, I will always cherish and seek to live out those precepts.
I just returned from a breathtaking trip to Scotland. During my time there, I thought about my Granddaddy nearly the entire time. I was able to spend some time in the heritage center to learn more about our Scottish heritage. My Granddaddy doesn’t know it yet, but it’s my turn to tell some stories. He’s going to be so excited!
I’m not a fan of birthdays.
I can’t seem to pinpoint exactly when I began to feel an aversion to this particular day of the year. It may have started when I was a kid – traumatized by the public spectacle of the O’Charley’s servers singing “Happy Happy Birthday – my response was to promptly hide under the table. As I got older, I would always intentionally choose a birthday dinner at a restaurant where I knew no one would sing.
Other than that, no one has ever made me feel badly about my birthday. In fact, everyone is so good to me (and I am beyond blessed by my family and friends). From words of encouragement to various cash and prizes, I should look forward to this day. But, I don’t.
As I get older, I believe that my panic around my birthday stems from an acknowledgement of my mortality. The aspect of getting older and experiencing all of the difficulties associated with age is terrifying. I’m worried about losing my mind. I’m anxious that I won’t get to experience all that I want to, or worse yet, I do and won’t remember. The only solace is in knowing that as soon as I leave this Earth, I will finally be home where there is no more pain, aging, or heartbreak.
Last week, I visited my Grandma. I told her who I was and also told her that we have a special day coming. You see, my Grandma’s birthday is the day after mine. We are exactly 40 years apart in age. Instead of focusing on what might be coming, I think I’ll take our birthdays and simply focus on being content with the present. I have so much to be thankful for, and I have so much to celebrate.
For our birthdays each April, consider donating to Alzheimer’s Research: https://act.alz.org
Last night, I had a dream. It was a simple dream. I was sitting in a restaurant and my Grandma came over and said hello. That’s it….just hello. It doesn’t seem like much, but to me, I woke up relishing in the dream where my Grandma knew me. She saw me, knew me, and spoke confidently to me, her granddaughter.
I think about my Grandma all of the time. As a child, playing restaurant and taking her order (by the 3rd, 4th, and 5th times when my Mom and Aunt had (very kindly) shoo’d me away), my Grandma still had orders for me. To traveling to wonderful destinations: Hawaii! Disney World! and even the more mundane: The Shops in Pigeon Forge and Southern Living idea houses (which, as an adult, I now adore). I’ll never forget the traveling around with my Grandma. This includes the traveling around town at first in the old, beat-up, green Honda and eventually in the overpacked minivans.
One of the many moments when it occurred to me that my Grandma wasn’t able to function as before was when her keys were taken away (and I had been told that her cell phone had to be replaced several times because she would leave it in an undisclosed location). The GPS locator on her car wasn’t enough anymore.
If one had to argue that there was something more devastating about Alzheimer’s disease than the diminishing mental facilities, it would be the loss of dignity.
If you would like to participate in upcoming events to raise awareness visit: https://www.alz.org/events
I also recently purchased, from Pura Vida, a tangible reminder to pray daily for those battling with Alzheimer’s or supporting those assisting loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease – get yours today: https://www.puravidabracelets.com/products/alzheimers-awareness
Memories. Such fragile things. And Alzheimer’s disease shows no mercy to its victims.
We need to learn to slow down and enjoy every moment. I’m sure my Grandma never considered that an incurable disease would steal all of her most precious memories. We had a family lunch to celebrate my Grandparents anniversary. Her children, grandchildren, and one great grandchild reminisced over her wedding day as she sat distant occasionally looking around while my Aunt reminded her that we are all her family.
I wanted her to remember. I wanted her to look up across the table, see me, and know me.
I need to find balance in my life and make intentional choices to be present and active with my close friends and family. I need to see my Grandma more, while I still have the chance. As we were leaving, I told my Grandma that I loved her and she replied, “Well, love you too!” As I hugged my sweet Granddaddy, I told him to keep taking good care of Grandma, and he promised me that he would. I said, “And, we are going to take care of you.” Through watery eyes he said, “You better.”