I know who I am. I know where she is. I know I am loved.
The text message sent to me from my mother, the morning after her mother, my Nana, passed away. On the eve of Mother’s Day, which should be a genuine celebration of all the love given, I mourn her passing.
Ironic, and sad.
But I have so much to be thankful for this gloomy Saturday afternoon. As I heard my mother’s strong voice on the other end of the line quiver slightly and then quickly return back to normal, I envied her strength. She has always been the pillar of our family, and she learned that, in part, from my Nana.
My grandmother was a beautiful woman, but she left us years ago.
Sick and tired for year, she simply wasn’t the same Nana we grew up with. But her love for her children and her grandchildren (and now, great grandchildren) never faded or swayed. And I am grateful for the time I was able to spend with her.
In times of loss and sadness, it is easy to get caught up in what we should have or could have or would have done if there was more time/money/awareness. I’m striving, though, to focus on how I will remember her and the things she unknowingly taught me.
It felt as though she may not let go, and her weak hands clung so tightly to my shoulders it hurt. And she left me drenched in a sweet scent of baby power and lavender after each embrace that I could never forget. I searched for a perfume that replicated that smell, to no avail. But it was magical, and it was hers.
I remember going to church with her and my grandfather, hidden in the quiet hills of a West Virginia town. She sang along with every hymn with all her might, harmonizing and tapping a finger or two on the pew in front of her. But there was a softness to her faith. She would nod her head during the sermon, and at times I couldn’t tell if she was trying to stay awake or agreeing with the pastor. It didn’t matter though, as her conviction was as strong as the grip of her hug. She knew who she was and was proud of it.
I remember watching humming birds come to the porch of her big green house, occupied by her parents until they passed on.
In the summertime, it would rain so heavily I swore it would never stop. And when it did finally quit, steam would rise off the streets in waves, creating a mystical haze that was equally mysterious and peaceful. We would sit on the porch of her big green house and just wait—wait for the humming birds to come feed from the sweet red syrup she faithfully replenished each day. I remember thinking how small and how fast they were, and I secretly wished for one to call my own.
I remember when she and my grandfather moved in with us, and the challenge that presented to our tightly knit unit of five. Seven was a crowd, some days, but we managed just the same. She would come play basketball with me on the court in our backyard. The days before she got sick—she dribbled the ball clumsily and shot with both hands and I laughed. And I loved her in those moments more than ever. A true champion of fun—on the court with her second granddaughter doing what a Nana does.
And I remember visiting her after my divorce, and how she held my hands with both of her hands and spoke so sweetly a quiet truth. In true grandmother fashion, she said he wasn’t good enough for me anyway, and that I would be better off finding some tall handsome man who made a lot of money.
My caliber guy, she said.
I sneered at the idea then, but knew she meant every word in the most genuine way. It was never a doubt that she cared with her whole heart and her whole soul, and I will miss that from her.
I remember when she said she loved me, bushels. I always laughed, but I knew it made her sad deep down. As I moved and focused on a hectic career, we lost touch, and the opportunities I created to see her were fewer and farther between. But when we spoke briefly on the phone, she would say those words and I would feel her wrap around me with all her warmth and all her love—the kind of hug only a Nana could give. Drenched in a baby powder and lavender scent, I felt it every time.
And now she’s gone.
Although I miss her tremendously, I know she loved me and she knew I loved her. I should have said that more, and I should have seen her more, and I should have this and should have that.
But I can be joyful in the fact that she loved so big, and taught my mother to do the same. And although it may not have been perfect, it was true and deep and it was her gift to give. My mother emanates that each day in her own acts of service, and more importantly, as a parent. My hope is to live up to the legacy each of them has created—to love as big as I can, genuine and true.
And on this Mother’s Day, I could not pay a greater tribute to my mother but to honor and thank hers.
I love you Nana, bushels.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Courtesy of author