One year ago, I lost my sweet Nana to bladder cancer. She was already suffering from a form of
dementia and, in some ways, we had already lost a part of her long before. In honor of her, I want to share a little bit about her, if you don't mind...
Both of my parents worked outside the home. My dad was a paramedic/firefighter with Metro Fire Department, and my mama worked for the bank before changing careers and becoming the secretary at Jackson Park Church of Christ. So my grandparents helped look after my sister and me. We spent a lot of afternoons and long summer days there. Almost all my holiday memories are wrapped into that one house with her and my Papa. You see, technically, she and my Papa were my only true living grandparents. However, God works in mysterious ways and brought my adoptive grandparents into our lives, more about them in a later post. :)
Nana – well, she is the lady who started my coffee addiction at an early age. LOL I used to sit with her outside on the back porch of a morning and we would drink our "Copee" together. I would say "Nana, tell me about you when you were little."
I loved to hear about how she grew up on Andy P. Haney Road. Nana born in 1935 during the Great Depression and grew up in rural Putnam County. Times were hard, and she was the youngest of 7 with two older brothers out of the house already. The stories she told of drawing water from the creek and walking to the little church/ schoolhouse captivated me as a child. I was eager to hear all her stories, and when we took our road trips to see family and go up the "mountain" for decoration, I thrived on seeing all the places she described especially where she fell in love with my Papa and came home to visit when they were on leave from the Navy.
Nana taught me a lot about life growing up. She was kind and compassionate to us grandkids, but we knew not to cross her. She would say " Do you want Nana to cloud up and rain??"
All us grandkids would know what that meant, and we knew we had better straighten up, or we would find ourselves each in a corner on the timeout couch. I think back to the long summer days spent playing at their house. I learned to garden ( I stink at it now), but, man, did I enjoy playing in the dirt and pruning flowers! I believe that is partly where my deep love and devotion to agriculture began. I helped pick beans and tomatoes and then helped can them. Each year I would mark a specific jar of green beans that I had helped can, and then, on that Thanksgiving she would send me out to the utility room to find it so we would have them for Thanksgiving dinner. It taught me to take pride in my work and to share it with others.
I watched my Nana take care of her oldest brother and his wife when he wasn't able to drive anymore due to blindness and Alzheimers. Wednesday was known as shopping day after that. I watched as every Wednesday she would get up, get ready, and go out to pick them up. She would take them to all their doctors’ appointments and grocery shopping. Watching her sacrifice at least one day a week to take care of her big brother had more of an impact on me than she ever realized. She taught me to love unconditionally and that devotion to family trumps little squabbles.
Sometimes we don't get to choose who our family is or what paths our loved ones take; however, one thing I knew for sure, though, was no matter what, she was going to take care of her brother and his wife. Even when she wasn't well herself, she never quit. After my great uncle passed away, she continued to care for Aunt Dimple until her own diagnosis of Dementia stopped her.
After my Papa passed away, I remember the following winter being with her and a red bird appeared. She told me that when a red bird sits by your window, it is a heavenly visitor. I know she believed that red bird was connected to my Papa as he loved feeding and watching all his birds. So, as I watched the red birds in the snow this winter, I couldn't help but think of her and feel as if her spirit was still lingering. It was the inspiration behind this photo of my Cia and the red bird.
When this photo was taken, I didn't think much about what I was planning to do with it – I just wanted to freeze this magical moment in time. Cia LOVES the snow. It was the only thing she didn't get for Christmas that she asked for. LOL When I was a child, my Nana allowed my imagination to grow and encouraged us to play and be kids. I want that for my sweet Cecilia too. I borrowed this Red Bird from the internet and went to work creating this image. It is priceless to me. It may not be perfect or win any awards, but it tells a sentimental story for me of magical morning coffee talks, bird watching, and family. Saying goodbye to my Nana was such a huge loss for my entire family, but my little girl was so sad. This year has been hard watching her process the grief piece by piece. Not long ago she asked me if when she got to heaven she would know anyone there. I told her yes! Jesus and Nana would be there to welcome her.
Then, she asked "Will I know who she is? Will she still have white hair?"
I see my Nana in Cia in the things she does and loves. It is such a comfort to have these little moments of joy within the sadness. If anything, this process of life and loss has taught me to love deeply and make memories.
So, I urge you to create memories with your loved ones. Tell them stories and encourage your sweet ones to use their imaginations and dream. This life is too short, so we only have today to make positive impacts on those we come in contact with. Live life with love and grace and remember to watch for the Red Birds :)