On March 10, 2020 my grandmother, affectionately called Little Bit, died after a massive stroke. She hadn’t been sick or anything and was just days before jumping on a bouncy castle with her great grandkids at a birthday party. The whole family was shocked when she died, to say the least. I find myself rocked to the core with this death… beyond the others I’ve written about, the death of my grandma has me deeply sad but also very grateful for her.
She was feisty, small in stature, big in love, the heart of our family, the thrill seeker, the wrestler, the fearless matriarch. Everyone who knew her loved her. She was a Christian woman who relied heavily on her faith. She was a phenomenal cook. She ran a tight ship in her restaurant business and didn’t take kindly to laziness or ineptitude. She loved all animals and often had various animals on her farm. From chickens to geese, sheep to pigs and cows that would nurse on your hand, she had them all at one point. She was a huge fan of emus before her farm life came to a close. She and my grandfather cornered the market on emu oil and all things emu. They raised them, farmed them, and sold the byproducts. They were all in!
As for her family… she was something else. Grandkids always have a different perspective about their grandparents than our parents had about their parent. My mom lived a different life with her mother than I did with my grandmother. My grandma taught me about Jesus Christ and led me to know him as my personal savior. I learned hymns like “Amazing Grace” and “I Fly Away” by singing them with her during bible study in the evenings in the living room of a small shack we lived in at the time. I learned to pray and what it felt like when God was in the room. Grandma always gave us a place to live when things weren’t going well with whatever man my mom was with at the time. We always had food because grandma would send my mom home with leftovers from the restaurant. If it was her delectable biscuits and gravy or the despicable liver and onions, we had food. My grandmother taught me to brush my teeth. She made sure my sister, brother and I all had Christmas gifts every year regardless of what was happening with my family. Grandma gave me my first job at her restaurant where I earned my first paychecks and saved enough money over time to buy my first pair of brand new, name brand shoes. Grandma taught me the value of hard work, discipline and servitude.
She was a giver in the truest form. Every year on thanksgiving she would have the whole family come together to cook and prepare a thanksgiving feast for the community offered through her restaurant. She had a donation jar for people who wanted to pay for their meals but she had no expectation for payment from anyone regardless of their ability to pay. The entire meal was free for everyone. Every year. Once everyone was served and off to their homes to rest in a food induced coma, all of the family, and any employees who wanted to, stayed for our own thanksgiving meal. We would make a 20 foot long table and load it with turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, corn, green bean casserole, biscuits, dinner rolls, gravy, and fruit salad. Then dessert was always homemade pies: apple, cherry, blueberry, pumpkin, and other varieties from time to time. The cleanup was always the worst because we all just wanted to go home and knock out for a nap, but alas we had to clean and prepare the restaurant for a full shift the following day.
Grandma was an exceptional cook. She was famous for her homemade jams and jellies. She made blackberry, strawberry, prickly pear, apple butter, peach, marmalade, and so many more. She had the greenest thumb I’ve ever known. She could grow anything out of nothing. She liked to grow cucumbers for homemade pickles that she would use in her restaurant. She liked to grow flowers and plants. She especially loved purple irises and marigolds. I remember both flowers being on her property and behind her restaurant all the time. She also hand an affinity for hollyhocks. A flower I’ve only ever seen in Arizona. She loved green houseplants like the philodendron. Even as she aged she maintained flower beds and small gardens that she diligently tended to daily. She was one of the few motor homes in the mobile home park that had a garden and flowers. It seemed as though she would plant something everywhere she went. A small bit of Little Bit was left in her wake. Gardening and planting joy was her passion. She did it with a smile and great pride. When I would visit she often start off by showing me her plants and what’s been growing in her garden. She would brag about the fact she had the best garden in the mobile home park and would smile in delight.
To grandma, no one was a stranger. She was friends with everyone. She didn’t meet a person she couldn’t connect with or find a way to serve. She was generous in so many ways and found ways to bless others. I’ve learned in the last few years that we had several regular patrons to the restaurant who never paid for a meal because she just fed them. They were hungry and so they ate. She would use that time to talk to them about Jesus or Pop would come out and make friends, smoke cigarette or drink a cup of coffee while they ate. But those guests always had a plate of food and no judgement passed, not that I ever witnessed. Grandma lived a modest life. She didn’t have a lot but she did all at the same time. She was wealthy in family, friendship, and character.
Every being has flaws. We all make mistakes. We all do things we wish we wouldn’t have done or said things we wish we wouldn’t have said. We all have rough edges and need polishing in some regard or another. We are not born perfect, and we don’t die perfect. But, I know that my grandma taught me so much and gave me so much that I will forever be grateful to her. I think she likely saved our lives in more ways than one in the course of my lifetime. Thankfully I had opportunity to meet with her alone a couple times over the last five or so years and expressed my gratitude and the magnitude of the impact she had on my life. I hope she remembered all I shared and how much I loved her. I pray she knew my voice as I spoke to her in her final hours via video-chat. I pray the tears I saw gathered in the corner of her eyes was from the intensity of the love she felt. I pray that in her final hours she knew no pain and ran happily into the arms of God the Father as her spirit left this earth. I pray that she wasn’t afraid or worried about anything. I pray she was at peace with the legacy she left behind.
And for me, I pray that in time my heart will heal and this won’t hurt so badly. This post alone has taken me nearly four days to write because I couldn’t keep it together long enough to finish in one sitting; I was too overcome with emotion and the intensity of it all. I pray that I live the rest of my days honoring her and living up to the person she believed me to be. And more so, I pray that I live a life where I create a legacy of my own while also honoring her legacy.
Until we meet again Grandma, I love you, I miss you, and I hope you know how much you mattered. Rest easy in heaven and I hope you and Pop are enjoying your heavenly reunion! I know he missed you so much! Love you forever and always.
The Repressed Peach