. . . . I honestly thought that my (oft-times undependable, often screwy, and predictably unpredictable) brain's fog of grief had cleared enough for me to actually sit down and write about my feelings regarding the enormous loss to our family this week. . . and here I sit, 25 excruciating minutes later, staring at a (predominately) blank screen.
I guess I'm not as 'together' as I thought I would be. . . .
So please forgive me in advance. This post may not be uplifting. It may not be inspiring. In fact, it may make no sense whatsoever. But I'm going to try.
Yesterday was May 4th, 2012.
It was the day that we laid my sweet-sweet Grandmother to rest. Mary Lou Hicks, who was truly one of a kind, and known to most all, and loved by most all who knew her. But to all of us, she was simply Granny, Granny Hicks, or 'The Gran', IF we were feeling sassy enough to tease her with that honorary title. =) (Secretly? She LOVED it.) She always smiled when we called her that, and the look on her face always said quite plainly that she thought that we were the most silly, genius, and absolutely delightful children that were ever born to this planet. And we, of course, having no reason whatsoever NOT to---believed her. =)
But life can be weary, and the road can be so LONG sometimes. . .I'm only 35, and sometimes it already feels like I've lived FIVE lifetimes! I can't even imagine being 87. . . And a few days ago, before she took that recent really-bad turn for the worse, she even told Mama that she was 'tired.' And I can understand that. I can even say I firmly believe that she is 'tired' no more. . . She walked this earth for 87 years, though not so well in the last few. . . *My brother Patrick said in jest that for a while she looked like George Jefferson when she walked. . . like she was "Movin' on UP!", and the thought of that keeps me laughing every time I think of it.*
So, in the bright-bright sunshine, in the cemetary of the church where she spent her whole life in service (she was still taking food to the 'old people' in the church when she was well into her 70's), she was lowered next to my dear Granddaddy, whom she hasn't seen in more years than I can count. She was surrounded by her entire brood: 2 sons, 1 daughter, 7 grandchildren (of which I count myself blessed to be one of), and 8 great-grandchildren, IF I am counting correctly (there's a lot of us now =). And countless family, friends, well-wishers, and dear souls. That's what happens, I guess, when you spend your whole life having never met a stranger =)
So dear and so kind, not just to family, but to EVERYONE. What can you say about somone whose loss is so deeply felt? I won't get into what I personally believe or don't believe about the afterlife, because it doesn't matter. She's gone from us now, and suddenly ALL I WANT TO DO IS TALK TO HER AGAIN. . . . . .
That's all. Just to hear her voice as she used to be, and tell her I love her. That's all I want. . . But I got to tell her I loved her at the hospital. . . and for all I know, she may've even heard me. But I won't talk to her again, not on this side of the veil, at least. That can't happen. So all we can do now is carry on. One: Because we really have no other choice, and Two: Because it would be a disservice to her memory, and to all that she taught to all of us, to wallow now in grief. Not even for her =) She wanted us to be grateful for every day. To rejoice in the good, for it is everywhere. And to be kind to everyone you meet and hold, love, and cherish the people that MEAN SO MUCH (!!!) in your heart. . .every day.
. . .I remember when Chris (my late husband) died in 2002---(. . . Good Lord! Has it really been that long??)---and I remember saying to my Mama (who WAS my strength when I had none. . . .to quote The Lemonheads: "Baby/ When you can't trust yourself/ Trust someone else.") : "Mama, if I could just TALK to him again, I would be fine. I just NEED to hear his voice." Because I JUST missed my friend. . .and it's selfish, I know, to want the ones we love to be with us, even if they're suffering, but I can't help it---there are some I just love so deeply and so much, and dammit-to-hell I MISS THEM!
But we grow up (slowly, sometimes, if you're me), and we come to realize that there is no telephone to the afterlife. So we look at photos of our loved ones, we remember all the times we rolled on the floor laughing, we remember the tears we shared, and the hugs, and the FOOD ---Oh God! Granny was a Southern Sorceress in the kitchen!---and ALL the funny stories of a life well-spent.
. . . I don't usually post country songs, but this one always made me think of my Granny----but of course I changed the words when I sang it =)
I think it's a lovely-written song, and even if you disagree, the lyrics speak to me. (So there.)
Except, when singing this song in the car, at home, wherever, I always changed the lyrics as follows:
Am Mary Lou's granddaughter,
The spitting image of my mother,
And when the day is done my Daddy's still my biggest fan.
I'm clueless and I'm clumsy,
But I've got friends that love me,
And they know just where I stand.
It's all a part of me.
And that's who I am."
So I guess sometimes we all need to be reminded of who we are. And, for me, the easiest way to remember that, is to remember where I come from:
I come from the country. I come from skinned knees, and lightning bugs caught in jars on summer nights. I come from a place where, in the summer, the honeysuckle smells so sweet and so strong (and like SO MANY memories, and so MANY yesterdays), that it almost knocks you over. I come from playing in the woods, and playing in creeks, and climbing trees just to find a good branch to sit on and read a book. I come from a place where there is a Hymnal and a Bible always within reach, and a place where everyone knows all the verses to 'Amazing Grace'.
I've made a lot of mistakes, and I have a lot of regrets, but I'm getting older, and I'm (slowly but surely) figuring out who I am.
I am Steve and Karen Hicks' neice, and a hug from either of them soothes my heart in a way that I have no words to describe. I am Ryan and Amanda Hicks' cousin, and though we've grown up and moved away, if I loved someone once---I love them always.
I am Crandy and Craig Miller's cousin, and sort of an honorary aunt-ish type thing to their beautiful children. I love them and love living closer to them so that we get to see them more often.
I am Crant and Cindy Hicks' neice, and while their hugs cure me in many ways, it is Uncle Crant (who, by the way, married me and Michael on the street corner where we met), that can lift me up in just a few words. And THEN have me laughing before I even know what's going on.
I am an Aunt, and a sister, and a sister-in-law, and a cousin.
I am a (proud) coal miner's daughter. I am a country girl with the soul of a poet. I am a mother. And a wife. And, if I'm not exaggerating my own self-importance, I am a writer. (Not sure it counts if you've never gotten paid for it, but I'm putting it on my mental resume just the same. No one ever checks those things.)
And I am, I believe (and you can ask my mother for verification on this, my story will check out, trust me), more like my sweet Granny than anyone else currently in our family. Everyone says I look like her. I'm built JUST like her (the reason that I NEVER wear capri pants). I have NO patience for shopping (just like her), I have her mannerisms, her expressions, and her love, love, LOVE of reading.
There were ALWAYS stacks of library books in one corner or another of her house.
Her kitchen was almost always messy; didn't bother her in the least. =) She was tough as nails, gentle as clothes dried in the sunshine, and ALWAYS (to the day she died) had the SOFTEST skin. . . due to a religous Eterna cream regimen. You don't slack on lotion. That's what she said. I remember feeling her skin. . .and she was OLD (to me then =), and her skin was so soft! So I took it to heart and began wearing wrinkle-lotion, softness lotion, eye lotion, you-name-it, from the time I was about 15 years old.
She taught my Mama. (Who will NEVER be 'mother'---ALWAYS Mama. 'Mothers' are what northerners have. Besides, 'Mama' sounds more dear.) She filled me full of Hawaiian Punch. She taught me what plants are which, and which berries are poisionous. She checked me for ticks. She sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. She made THE BEST Lemon Squares I have ever tasted. And in turn, Mama taught me. . . .To cook, to clean, to PLAY, to LOVE, to be creative, and to ENJOY THIS LIFE.
These are the women who taught me everything I know about the important things in life. About grace, and strength--a woman's kind of strength. About food, and faith, and laughter and love (and sarcasm, thank God), and a million other blessings I cannot even begin to name.
There is a house on a hill that my Granddaddy built with his own tow hands many years ago, and it was in that house that my Granny lived her entire adult life. It housed and saw three children raised, was home to numerous animals of one type or another over the years. (Including Squealie, my Mama's pet pig, who was, by all accounts, delicious.) And was the default gathering site for all meals Easter, Birthday party, Thanksgiving, and Christmas-related. If the walls could talk, tonight that dear home misses it's Mistress.
But Grace is a curious thing. . . Those walls could also speak volumes about all the granchildren watching Mary Poppins on the living room floor. About making shadow puppets (and having a BALL!) with a flashlight when it stormed one night and the power went out. Or just the endless slides we ALL took down that great hill, covered in pine straw, on our chariots of cardboard =) I swear, with all the clothes dried out on the line, all the mashed potatos and biscuits prepared in that kitchen, all the family members that have lived in the backyard from time to time, and all the laughter and joy spent in that house and that yard, the entire place must be the most sacred kind of enchanted.
And now one of my favorite, and enchanting, hymns. . .
Her last photo, enjoying the sunshine. . .
This is one of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson, and it made me think of her today. It gives me comfort, so I'll share, and then I'll shut up (for now), as I am brain-dead:
"Baffled for just a day or two --
Embarrassed -- not afraid --
Encounter in my garden
An unexpected Maid.
She beckons, and the woods start --
She nods, and all begin --
Surely, such a country
I was never in! "
<3 <3 <3 I love you, my dear, sweet Granny. <3 <3 <3
And I just miss you so much.
"Parting is all we know of Heaven, and all we need of Hell."