My grandma has run the race.

2016/11/01

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I never knew my grandma was a cheerleader as a girl.

That was probably the most surprising thing I learned about her as our family laid her body to rest Halloween 2016.

 

My grandmother Martha had been ailing for several years now, bedridden with diabetes,  dementia and requiring round-the-clock care.

In the morning of October 26, 2016, I got the call from my dad that she had at last passed away overnight.

I’ve been bracing for this moment for years, in a way, and particularly so in the last few days of Grandma’s life since being alerted that the end was near. It’s true that seeing it coming helps at least a little.

Maybe more than a little in my case. I’m surprised at how normally I’ve been able to function in these several days since the news. But this eulogy has been far more difficult in coming than I thought it would be —  evidence that I wasn’t processing the loss quite as well as it appeared even to myself.

She’s the last of my grands to go, outliving her husband by a little over 15 years and my paternal grandfather by a decade. (My biological paternal grandmother died when Dad was a sophomore in college.) And so passes that generation of my immediate family.

———

Born in 1924, by age 11 Grandma was an orphan, having lost her mother when she was only 2. She was then raised by an uncle who probably misremembered her birthdate and so Grandma celebrated her birthday a day early until her 80s, when her original birth certificate was found.

It was said she treated her childhood dolls as children while playing. She would go on to raise 13 children of her own and serve as a church and neighborhood mother to more still — to say nothing of her 21 grandkids and 30-plus great-grandchildren.

She was called a mother of mothers by one of her sons-in-law — my dad — and the title is fitting.

———

Grandma was a devoted Christian who, even when deep in her dementia, could still occasionally sing and pray to her Lord. And as a praying woman, she likely had a direct effect in changing the course of my life.

Upon graduating college in the early 1990s, I opted to stay in Washington D.C., despite having very little in the way of a plan or money or anything. I was barely employed. I had a line on a place to stay, but looking back on it, it was sketchy. Still, I was determined to figure something out.

(There may have been a girl I was interested in.)

I later heard that Grandma specifically prayed that I get out of D.C. Answered prayer may have been why I suddenly abandoned all my plans and decided to go home to Atlanta after all.

It may have been the decision that saved my life. It almost certainly was one that led to the saving of my soul, as it was in Atlanta that I became serious about my faith for the first time.

———

 

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There’s no question. This is my favorite photo of Grandma. It’s a significant one for me for a number of reasons.

She and Grandpa were Atlanta Braves fans from the time the team came South. I couldn’t have cared less about baseball during those summer visits during my youth, but as an adult in my late 20s and 30s, I became a fan of the home team. During adult trips to her Macon home, I enjoyed sitting with her to watch baseball games. They were bonding moments for us.

All this time, though, she’d never been to an actual major league Braves game. So, in 2010, at age 85, during one of her extended stays with my mom and dad’s place, we — myself, my parents, her youngest son and his wife, with tickets provided by my cousin Angela —took her to one.

She enjoyed it but the constant roar of the crowd grew unpleasant for her and so we took her home before the end of the game. The Braves were losing, anyway.

Until they actually ended up winning after she’d left. But she could cross that off the bucket list. (I’m not sure she HAD a bucket list, though.)

I look back on this summer day as pretty much the last time she could get around well enough to enjoy such an outing and my company.

———

I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete this eulogy — or even really start to properly grieve — until after the home going service. And indeed, it was during the car drive to the service that it really hit. As we began our drive, I saw a road worker standing at attention with his hardhat off. And all the way to the church during the roughly 5-mile route, every single driver on either side of the four-lane road had stopped out of respect.

That doesn’t happen in Atlanta. But it speaks to the values that still live on in Macon — values that Grandma embodied more than most and passed down to every single one of the children she mothered. And it was a most fitting tribute from these strangers-but-neighbors to this tiny woman who nevertheless stood like a tower in the spirit over this unworthy world.

Now she is receiving her due in heaven from her Lord.

Until we meet again, Grandma, may I embody those values and bring Him my own crown — one that, if not for your prayers, I might not have.

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One Response to “My grandma has run the race.”

  1. L. Sampson Says:

    Khari, this is an awesome and befitting tribute to your grandma. And it is so well written and expressed the feelings of not only you but I think many of your cousins….some even so stated in Macon. More later, Pops


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