Thursday, February 07, 2013

Finally...It's About Willie


I took Mom out of the box this morning. She has been sitting on the bottom shelf of the bookcase since I returned home after Thanksgiving…in a little vase within a box. I set the vase on the top shelf beside a carving of a mother cradling her baby. On the side of the carving are the words “Maternal Bond”. It seems appropriate. Mom gave me the statue.

It took me a while to get to that point where I could move her into plain view. I understand the reason for splitting her ashes into three parts. I totally get Daddy’s reason for doing so – he wanted her to be with all three of us. It was a symbolic gesture he had to make to help him through his grieving.

And actually, as I sit here at the table typing with the bookcase behind me, I feel a strange sensation…as though someone is staring at me.

The feeling reminds me of the early morning my grandmother died in 1998. Sound asleep, I sat bolt upright in bed. Not afraid, just hyper aware that something had just happened but I had no idea what. I sat there for a few minutes listening intently for any unlikely sounds. There were none…just a soothing consciousness of my grandmother smiling at me, patting me on the shoulder and telling me everything was all right. Then I lay down and immediately returned to sleep. It was 7:30 in the morning when I received the phone call from Mom telling me that Grandmother had died during the night.

Her death was actually unexpected. She was 90 so I suppose, at that age, death is never unexpected exactly. Nonetheless, she had recovered from a hip replacement enough to be excited about leaving rehab and going to live with Mom and Daddy. I had just seen her a couple of days before. Then, she was peaceful, rather mellow, and seemed genuinely content with moving in with my parents. Being a burden to her children was something she seriously worried about for a good many years.

I know that early morning at 2 a.m., it was Grandmother coming to me and letting me know that it was OK, that she was well and fine and that all manner of things would be well. I found out later in the full day that the staff said she died around 2 a.m. Then I knew for sure what I had already known in my heart.

She and I always had a special bond, a spiritual connection. She said it was the Indian blood. We both had vivid dreams. We would think of the other and that one would call the other on the phone. If I was having a bad time, I knew it would not be long before she called or a letter arrived in the mail because she had a dream about me. She deemed herself my protector…from what, who knows…she just knew that she was supposed to protect me.

When she died, I knew she continued to be with me. I felt her presence – not just the memories – but her physical presence. I would catch a glimpse of her, smell her, feel her nearness. That lasted for a good long time. It was comforting and I knew for sure that she continued to pray for me and watch over me.

Everyone told me that I reminded her of her baby girl that died. We both had dark eyes and hair. Betty Jane, my momma’s baby sister, died while receiving a blood transfusion directly from my grandmother.

Grandmother watched her baby girl die as her own life blood flowed into Betty Jane. What a horrible thing that must have been psychologically. Regardless of the fact that Betty had leukemia and would have certainly died, she actually died while her momma’s blood was being transferred into her beloved little body.

What would my life have been were it not for that baby dying that way? Would my bond with my grandmother have been different? What would have changed in my life had I not realized that I really liked my mom…that within all her admiration and love for me and me for her, there was a mutuality that defined our relationship with simple yet profound “like”.

Somewhere along the timeline of this path I have traveled for so many years now, I became more clearly aware of the connections that tie life together. The spiritual bond my grandmother and I shared; the mutual friendship my mother and I had; even my journey through this manufactured thing we call “church” – all things are connected. It is the grace of God threaded and woven that connects us all, friend or foe, close or far, alive or dead.

I rarely “see” my grandmother anymore but that is ok. She lives within me regardless of our ability to communicate on our familiar planes. The tragedy that I felt from Mom’s last day is fading into a more psychologically acceptable grief. I can think of her and smile now. I feel her behind me as always.

We continue to be connected. What these two women were and continue to be to the general makeup of my life is timeless and deeply entrenched within me. I am what I am because of who they were; all of us flawed and loving, touched by the grace of God that wraps itself within and without us. 

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