I am starting this blog for you at a very difficult time in my life as a daughter and mother. My mama, your Maw Maw, died three weeks ago rather unfairly. We were in no way expecting what happened to her, and I for one thought that I had a good thirty plus years of having her around. We had so many plans for you. I say “we” because she and I talked constantly about what an amazing little girl you are and how you are going to take this world by storm. We were going to watch you cheer and dance in recitals. In many ways, I think you were going to be my mom’s chance to experience the good parts of me all over again.
I hope that you never forget what an awesome woman she was and how much she absolutely adored you. She loved you and your brothers completely, unconditionally, without hesitation. She thought the three of you walked on water; to her, you were and still are absolute perfection.
You and your brothers didn’t come to the funeral, or as we called it, the celebration of life. I didn’t want you around all of the sadness that I was sure would be there. Your daddy and I told you that Maw Maw went to Heaven to take care of all of the little babies that haven’t been put in a Mommy’s tummy yet, and I do believe she is in Heaven, and I’m sure if she can get her hands on a baby, she is cuddling one. Though I’m sure she doesn’t enjoy it as much as she would enjoy cuddling you and your brothers. My point is, as sad as your Maw Maw’s death is and as completely devastated as I am that it happened, I don’t want you to be sad. I know that if there is a Heaven, she is there. I know that if she is there, she is with her own parents and grandparents. I know that she is happy there, although I know that she misses us; she loved us too much not to. I didn’t want you at the funeral; because I want you to remember her smile and the way she would laugh until she almost peed her pants. I want you to remember her baby face and her soft hands and the way that they held you as often as possible.
|Maw Maw holding her first two grandbabies.|
Although I didn’t want you at the funeral, I want you to know what I had to say about your Maw Maw that day, in case I never tell you these things myself. I want you to know what I was thinking on the first worst days of my life. I want you to know that I thought she was awesome, even when I didn’t act like it, and I want you to know that she was my best friend.
I have had so many people who were at the funeral tell me what a great job I did reading her eulogy. They’ve told me that they couldn’t have done it etc etc. I’m going to let you in on a few secrets, baby girl. I don’t remember most of what I said or what I saw as I stood in front of that church. I did what I felt my mother deserved that day. I won’t expect that from you, honey, so don’t feel bad if someday you can’t do the same thing. I wasn’t strong; I was numb, and for some of us that numbness isn’t there and things are more difficult. I think I was blessed with numbness. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do, and that’s what I did that day and the days surrounding it. I think you’ll find that we women have a knack for doing what needs to be done even when we don’t feel like it.
I am going to include the eulogy in this letter so that you can read it. There was so much more that I could have said about your Maw Maw, but there was only so much that I could get out that day.
|Maw Maw and me at Tweetsie Railroad|
Maw Maw’s Eulogy
First I guess I should thank you all for being here today and the days leading up to this. I have been surprised several times at the amount of support shown to my family. Friday night when we learned that my mother had passed, I called my Uncle Kenny and asked him to tell all of my aunts and uncles. I did this mainly so that they wouldn’t hear about it anywhere else. Within maybe half an hour my uncle drove up with my Aunts Theresa and Deloras. Then my cousin Brian and my Uncle Lynn arrived before we were relocated. By the end of the night all of my mother’s 7 brothers and sisters had arrived with their spouses and most of their grown children, along with several friends of Michael and my parents. I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been. Last night when we arrived at the funeral home and I saw that the parking lot was already full of cars and there was a line, I was again surprised. There was even one point where I thought we were done and figured we would spend the rest of the night greeting one or two people here and there, but 2 and half hours later we were still greeting family and friends. Once again I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been. And today, there are so many people here to support my family, and I have stopped being surprised. Many of you are here because you know Michael, or my dad, or me or one of my other relatives, you may never have even met my mother, and to you I apologize because you really missed out. But the fact that you are here supporting one of us, just further proves how amazing my mother was because everything great that you see in me and Michael and my dad is because of the people we became because of my mama. She was a simple woman, she never wore makeup, she didn’t worry too much about her hair or her clothes or the jewelry she wore. She didn’t ask for an easy life and she wasn’t angry at God or anyone else when she had to work for the things she wanted. She didn’t complain about the fairness of the world, she only asked that she be able to be with her family, especially my 3 sweet minis and Michael, or as my children call him “Maw Maw’s big baby” because even at 25 years old and 6 foot 4, he was still her baby. In fact one day recently she called me and I said “hello” and she said “hey baby” and I said “did you mean to call Michael?” we both laughed because we knew although she loved me no less than Michael, he was indeed her baby.
My mama loved her family. I have been chomping at the bit since I graduated college to move somewhere close to the ocean or the mountains, but I couldn’t convince her to leave her parents and siblings to go with me, and there was no way, especially after seeing how much my children adored her that I could leave her. Even on Thanksgiving when I tried to convince her to go to the mountains with me and let The Daniel Boone Inn cook our dinner so she could relax, she refused because she wanted to be with her brothers and sisters. A part of me knew that if I had went to the mountains anyway and taken her grandbabies with me, she probably would have followed, but I know it would have broken her heart and I was raised better than that.
When I was trying to decide what to say today about my mom it was hard to know where to start or what to pinpoint. She has been so many different things to me over the past 30 years. A caretaker, a disciplinarian, a teacher and finally a friend. When I was a senior in high school, we were given the assignment to create an AP portfolio. One of the assignments for this portfolio was to ask 10 people to write something about us. I asked my mom to write something for me and she worked and worked to make sure she got her quote just right. She wrote “I am very proud to have Heather for my daughter. She is a confident young woman who knows what she wants out of life and she intends to get it. She’s a good person who treats other people with respect but she will let you know when you are not doing the same. If I was not her mother and we were the same age I believe we could be best friends. I love her.” If you had ever asked my mother who made me a confident young woman, she probably would have said that I got it from my dad because I am in many ways so much like him. I am stubborn and headstrong, I can be mean and say things that I regret and it is true that I didn’t get any of that from my mother. But my confidence has never come from those aspects of my personality. My confidence comes from knowing that it in the eyes of my mother, I can never fail. I know that it is ok to want more out of life because my mother made me believe that I was someone who deserved it. She made me feel smart and beautiful and loved more than life itself. I have always known that no matter what I ever did or how far I might have fallen while doing it, I was still my mother’s daughter and she would still love me unconditionally. She recently told me of someone who had told her that they weren’t going to rearrange their lives because their adult child had made mistakes. She was so angry that they had said this, which to some of you who only remember her smile may be surprised to hear, but to those of us who know how truly fiercely she loved this is no surprise. She was so angry because she said that as a mother she would rearrange or change her entire life to help her child. She told me that even now that Michael is 25 and I am 30, if we needed her she would drop everything to do what we needed because we were her children and we were always most important. She was a mother before she was anything else.
There were many years that I didn’t understand what it meant to be a mother first, and I often didn’t understand how taking me to dance class and being my cheerleading coach and watching every one of mine and Michael’s athletic events was enough. It wasn’t until I had my own children that I understood what my mom had known all along; being a mother is the greatest role in the world, only slightly better than being the daughter of a really great mom. When Andy and I decided that we wanted to have children, my mama was the first person that I told. And she held her breath month after month when things didn’t go as planned. After over a year when I finally found out that I was pregnant I couldn’t hide my excitement the first time I saw her, even though I wasn’t supposed to be telling anyone. I met her for dinner at Golden Corral the day that I got the 2 pink lines. My dad was working out of town and Andy was coaching baseball so we were alone and she said something about me having a baby and I couldn’t not tell her, but I still wasn’t quite sure, so I just smiled. Her face lit up and her eyes filled with tears because without me saying a word she knew. She was going to be a Maw Maw and she was so excited. I think it was the only secret that she ever kept from my daddy because he was out of town and wouldn’t be home for another day or so and she wanted to see the happiness on his face when I told him in person. Later after we had confirmed the pregnancy and went to our first ultrasound, we came out of the doctor’s office and were surprised to see that she was sitting in her car waiting, ready to see the first picture of her grandbaby. When we handed over the ultrasound and there were two little people she cried and her happiness was infectious. I’m not sure if she was happier that she was becoming a Maw Maw or that her only daughter was becoming a mother. I was finally being let in to the secret she had known all along, there is nothing greater than being a mother, even when it’s hard.
In so many insignificant ways, my mama and I are nothing alike. And in those early adolescent years, there were many things that we didn’t agree on. I didn’t understand why she couldn’t be as cool as the other moms or why she wouldn’t just let me do whatever I wanted. She checked up on me and invaded my privacy and like a stupid teenager, I thought that she had no idea what she was doing. But I have no problem admitting that that woman knew exactly what she was doing, she was creating a woman who would know what she wanted out of life and not be afraid to get it. She was being my mother; not my friend. She was giving me what I needed and not necessarily what I wanted. One of her most embarrassing moments was during this time. I had had a basketball game and it was over and she and Michael and my dad were ready to leave but I never came out and I never came out. So she came back into the gym and she saw me up in the stands talking to a girl. As she got closer she saw that the discussion was a little more heated than she had originally thought, so she walked up to the bleachers and tried to get my attention. She beat her hand on the riser and called my name, but I was really laying into this girl and I wasn’t about to be deterred by a little smacking on the bleachers. So this woman in the stands says, “do you need help” and she tells her that she’s trying to get her daughter’s attention. The woman turns around and she tries to get my attention, but I was really trying to convince this girl to step out in the parking lot and was not interested in what this lady had to say either. The woman turns around to my mom and says, “I think she’s busy.” My mom was mortified. I don’t remember how she got me out of that gym, but obviously I eventually made it home and became a productive member of society. It would take another 17 years as I was dragging my screaming 4 year old out of Outback before I would realize just how embarrassed my mama was.
As I made my way through high school and on to college, my mom did not lower her standards as far as my behavior was concerned and eventually I began to realize that she never would. She had signed up for the job of mother and she was bound and determined to succeed at it whether I liked it or not.
The part of my mama’s quote that stands out to me is not any of the things that she says about my character, but when she says “if I was not her mother and we were the same age I believe we could be best friends.” Because I have to disagree with her here. She is my mother and we were not the same age, but she was my very best friend. I am just so thankful that I was able to realize so early what a wonderful woman she was instead of wasting the precious amount of time I had with her. There is no one who has ever been so brutally honest with me, no one who knows me the way my mother knew me and loved me not just in spite of it but because of it. So many times when people lose someone they love they are left wondering if that person knew that they loved them, and I am lucky in that I do not have to worry if my mama knew how I felt about her. I talked to my mama almost daily. I called her on my way home from work or almost any time that I was in the car, we would talk about the babies, or her day or whatever gossip she had picked up after visiting with her sisters either at Theresa’s or after their weekly Friday night dinners. She would always call and say “are you busy?” although she knew in one way or another I almost always was, though luckily most often not too busy to talk to her. We talked about everything from how to raise my children, to what happened on Days of Our Lives, or sometimes even religion and politics. There was nothing that we couldn’t say to each other because we were both confident in the relationship that we had built and the love we had for one another. The love that she had for all of us.
Thank you for celebrating her life with us.