I am sorry that I have been MIA for the past week and a half. I had to take some time to be with my family and grieve the loss of someone who was a big influence in my life. With my absence and the holiday this week, I am not following my normal posting schedule this week. I will be back on track beginning next week, I promise!
Today I want to write a tribute to one of the greatest women I ever knew. Heaven has had an angel on Earth return home. If you were to look up the word angel in the dictionary, you would find a picture of my Grandmama Rose. God sent her to this Earth back in 1933, and he has finally called her home. Anyone who knew her (and let’s be real, she NEVER met a stranger) knew that she was something special. There is not a single person that knew her that didn’t love her or that will ever forget her. You will never meet another with a sweeter spirit, greater love for Jesus Christ and her family, or more zest for life than her.
She was the wife of a farmer and mother to four (her oldest and only son is my dad). Life wasn’t always easy for her and the loss of her husband way too soon to cancer led to some low times, but those times are very much overshadowed by the joy she brought to our lives and the legacy that she leaves behind. Little did my grandparents know that their little family of 6 would blossom into what it is now. To say the family is large is an understatement. As the matriarch of the family, she leaves behind her 4 children, 10 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren. Let’s not forget all of those that came to the family by marriage. If you married into the family, you weren’t just an in-law; you became one of hers instantly. She would happily tell you that she had 8 children, 19 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren. When we were all together for holidays there were 45 of us counting her. That is a pretty big number, but that did not stop her from adopting anyone (and I mean ANYONE) she met into the family or to invite them to share in our family celebrations. She loved her family with every bone in her body. She loved people and she loved being everyone’s “Grandmama Rose.”
Now, my grandmother LOVED to talk. She could talk the ear off of anyone that would listen. In fact, if you listened long enough, she would tell you her life story as well as a story (or two) about the accomplishments of every single person in the family. Sometimes you never knew what was going to come out of her mouth, but it would either make your mouth drop open in shock, your belly be full of laughter, or your knees to buckle in prayer. She sure was a character! There was no such thing as a quick call to say hello. You better plan for at least a full 30 minutes or even an hour. She just didn’t want to miss out on telling you everything she knew or an opportunity to tell you how much she and God loved you. She had so much pride in her family and she was not afraid to brag about any of us. Oh, and let’s not forget about the cards (maybe my knack for writing came from her). Whenever she would write one, she practically wrote a book to tell you how proud she was of you and how much you meant to her. She would write every single one of us a card at Christmas. It used to take her hours to get through all of them, but she was determined. We were always impatient with her as it was inevitable that she was finishing them up until the very last second, but I will now cherish every single one of those cards that I have kept over the years. She loved playing “Ms. Claus” when we would get together as a family for Christmas. She would make every one of us sit on her lap (even as large, grown adults) as she asked if we had been good, told us how much she loved us, and gave us our special card. As silly as it was, I sure am going to miss that.
My childhood is filled with memories of Sunday lunches at her house, playing with cousins in the yard and across the street, homemade ice cream, 4th of July fireworks, numerous birthday parties, riding horses, sleeping in the pink room, forced outings to the hen house to get eggs (even though I was terrified of the chickens), and so many more things. One thing I will always remember about her is listening to her sing hymns at the top of her lungs as she gave praise to God at church. She wasn’t the greatest singer, but that didn’t matter because you knew by her voice that she always felt every word she sang deep in her heart. Boy, did she love the Lord and her little country church! Unfortunately, life and distance prevented me from spending much time with her the older I got. I think I took it for granted that she would always be there. It breaks my heart knowing that this past Christmas was our last with her. I do, however, feel so blessed that my own children got to know her and feel her love. They have their own handwritten notes that they can look back on in the years to come and their own memories of holidays at her house, riding horses, and sitting on her lap at Christmas.
I was her 2nd born grandchild (second by only 3 months) and her first granddaughter. I don’t know if it was because I was her first granddaughter or what, but she used to always tell me whenever she could that I was the angel at the top of her tree. She even wrote it in every single card she ever wrote to me. It was something that she said was just between us. It all started when I was very young with a golden angel ornament that my name was engraved on. She would always hang it at the top of her Christmas tree every year. From a very young age, she would tell me I was her angel. Little did she know that I always considered her one of my angels. She truly was an angel here on Earth. I only wish I could be half of the Christian woman that she was. I have always looked to her as a role model for me in that area. I’ve already said it many times, but she loved Jesus with every fiber in her body and it was evident to anyone that ever met her. Your salvation was always the one thing that she wanted for you more than anything, and she prayed for it every chance she got. I have had a note that she wrote me back in 1987 stuck in my Bible for over 30 years. She wrote me that note when I made the decision to rededicate my life to Christ publicly and become an official member of our church. I sometimes pull that note out and read it, and it makes me smile. Yes, she will always be my angel, and I will always be hers. My very last words to her before she passed were that I would always be the angel on top of her tree, and I know that she heard me.
As I sat at her funeral on Saturday, I was reflecting over my life with her. The pastor was saying that there was a purpose behind her not passing away instantly and for her spending 7 days in the hospital before she took her last breath. He said that is was so that she could continue to minister to those she loved and those around her. While that is probably true and what she spent her life doing, I don’t think it is the main reason. I truly believe that she hung on for those days so that she could bring her family together. As we sat day after day, hour after hour in that hospital waiting room, I reconnected with so many loved ones. Yes, we see each other once or maybe twice a year at best, but those times are short and hectic holidays. In that hospital, I was able to reconnect with cousins who were such a huge part of my childhood. Some of them were distant cousins that I hadn’t seen in over 25 years but that meant so much to me as a kid. I was able to connect with new family members that I had not yet had the chance to even really ever talk to before or those that were way younger than me and came along after I had moved away. We sat there for days laughing, crying, reminiscing, grieving, and just loving each other. Hugs that are normally the quick side hug to say hello or goodbye became long, heavy embraces. That was the gift she left us…the gift of family.
Although it breaks my heart to not have her here, I know heaven rejoiced when she entered the gate. I know she is dancing down the golden streets with my grandfather back by her side. She has been called home and she is looking down on all of us with great pride. I know that she is in God’s ear telling him about each of us and giving him our greatest needs. I pray that her legacy continues to bless people for years to come and that more people will come to know Christ because of her example as heaven’s angel on Earth.