To My Grandmama and Angel, Patricia Walker McDowell.

I’ve been working on “a piece” about my Grandmama. It’s taken me some time because it’s impossible. She passed away on July 5th. I’ve written some things for myself, but I wanted to publish one as well because I know that she would love it. She loved the internet. The last Facebook message I have from her is about the article I wrote for her son, my dad. She said it made her cry, and talked about how beautiful she thought it was. She had a way of encouraging the best in people.

In the 11 days I spent with her in the hospital, she said, “Everyone is so kind here.”

I said, “Grandmama, you know why?

She looked at me like I knew a secret.

“Kindness attracts kindness, it’s because you’re so kind.”

“Oh Catie, you have such a way with words.”

“They aren’t words, Grandmama, I just speak the truth.”

I feel inadequate to write about such a woman. I only knew you for 26 years of your 83 year old life. I can’t write about you, so I’m just going to write to you.

Dear Grandmama,

The morning after you passed, I had to go back to work. I came down to the kitchen teary eyed and couldn’t find anything to eat for breakfast. I just left for work hungry. I got into my car and looked in the back where I found a bag of Fiber One bars that you gave me a couple weeks ago. I grabbed one and laughed. No grandchild of yours was going anywhere with an empty stomach. Not on your heavenly watch! It was a grocery sack of probably 20 Fiber One bars, and 20 packets of instant grits and oatmeal. You fed me breakfast that morning just like you had countless times throughout my life, more than I needed and with so much love. Tonight, I write on a restaurant patio like I usually do. A waitress came out to say hello and check on me. She asked me how I was, and if I needed another drink. She said, “I’ve seen you here a few times and I just wanted to make sure you were well taken care of. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”

I said, “I appreciate that so much. What’s your name?”

“Patrice.”

I told her about you and she gave me a hug. There you are again, Grandmama, taking care of me still.

I spent 11 days with you in the hospital. I watched you display the most beautiful and genuine sense of kindness to every nurse and doctor as you writhed in pain. You would clench your stomach and wince in pain as a nurse adjusted the pillow behind your head. You would say, “Oh, thank you so much. That’s great.” You learned every nurse and doctors’ name. As each would come and go from your room, you would say, “Catie, this is so and so” with some very important tidbit about their life.

“She has two boys named blank and blank.”

“He is the first in his family to go to college and he loves his mama.”

They would smile so big.

“Thank you,” you said, over and over to each one by name. You were so kind and gracious.

The night before you passed, I went home. I held your hand, kissed your forehead, and told you that I loved you. The next morning I got a call that you were already gone. I felt loss, peace, a lack of you on this earth, relief, and I cried. I missed you already.

My first thought was, “I forgot to tell you something.”

I forgot to tell you, “thank you.”

Grandmama, thank you for the years you spent with me as a child. Thank for never losing touch with me as an adult, even when I tried to hide. Thank you for the stories. Thank you for the memories. Thank you for the pictures you took, and the journals you wrote. Thank you for everything you left behind. Thank you for your selflessness. Thank you for the bond you created amongst siblings and cousins. Thank you for creating the space and time for seven young souls to become, imagine, love, create, eat, giggle, and explore. Thank you for creating that space amidst the exhaustion, frustration, sadness, and grief that you were carrying. There is no way for me to sum up those years. We talk about them every time we get together. You created a paradise for seven children to just be children.

The thing is that I have what I remember, but I also know that even more love transpired despite my child mind’s ability to see or perceive it. I can only imagine. Loss of sleep, crawling on the ground with us, pulling a red wagon down the street, making countless sandwiches with very specific requests, cultivating the most imaginative stories after very long days, and making each day so wildly special.

Everyday felt like a holiday at Grandmama’s house, and we were just celebrating being alive.

Oh, you want a sandwich? Here are seven.

Oh, you I want to dance on my coffee table to Michael Bolton? Turn it up! Here’s a flashlight for a spot light.

Oh, you’re curious? Let’s go to the library.

Oh, you want a song? Here’s a silly rendition that will make you double over in laughter.

Oh, you have too much energy? Let’s go to the fitness center and run around the tracks.

Oh, you want a midnight snack? Here’s some cheese “to nibble on.”

Oh, you want a bedtime story? Crawl onto your “pallet” and let me tell you about Squeaky the Mouse or the tractors that come alive at night.

Oh, you want a childhood you’ll never forget? Here is all my love.

It was never ending, the love, in so many forms.

You were this angel who watched over seven brand new souls to earth, and you made it so sweet. You never told us about the grief you had been through. You never showed it or carried it. You met us where we were and it was divine.

As I child, I knew you as Grandmama, but the days we spent in the hospital and the days after you passed, I got to meet Patricia Walker McDowell. You told me new stories, real stories, and you left us your journals.

Grandmama, as a child, you changed my life, and I get a little angry at that sentence because they are just words. Everyone has a grandmother. Everyone has lost someone they love. Everyone had a childhood and carries special childhood memories.

What I’m trying to say is that God gave us you, and you will always be one of life’s greatest gifts to us.

God knew what our family needed when our family was stitched together. We needed you. You are a piece of all of us, the best parts.

I spent 11 days with you in the hospital and you changed my adult life in those short days. I am a different human than I was three weeks ago. I am stronger. I feel older. You put my 26 year old life into perspective. You made me want to be better. You made me want be a stronger woman. You made small things feel small, and big things feel bigger. You reminded me who I was and where I came from. You made me laugh at myself, which I needed. You made me realize that a simple life could be the most profound life.

Thank you.

I feel this sense of urgency about my life.

I have to get the job.

I have to figure it out.

I have to find the partner.

I have to know all the answers.

I have to get there.

By just simply by being you, I heard, “It’s okay. Slow down. You can’t mess this thing up. Just be you, just love.”

I snuck onto the Tumblr I made you one night after leaving the hospital. Your feed was one quote reposted about 15 times, a quote from one of your favorite books.

“In the end, enjoying life’s experiences is the only rational thing to do. You’re sitting on a planet spinning around in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Go ahead, take a look at reality. You’re floating in empty space in a universe that goes on forever. If you have to be here, at least be happy and enjoy the experience. You’re going to die anyway. Things are going to happen anyway. Why shouldn’t you be happy? You gain nothing by being bothered by life’s events. It doesn’t change the world; you just suffer. There’s always going to be something that can bother you, if you let it.” – Michael A Singer, The Untethered Soul

This is your legacy to me. Happiness is an ambiguous word, and by ambiguous, I mean it looks different on everyone. To me it means that happiness is a choice that you make every day. To me it means, life is short, make it good, your good, and be good.

Your good was family, ancestry, children, the people you love, stories, baking, cooking, Facebooking, picture stitching, routine, solitude, your patio, reading, landscaping, and it was so good.

You entered this world 83 years ago and were met with unimaginable hardship and pain. On July 5th 2017, you left this world with unimaginable grace, love, and gratitude.

The thing about writing about you is that every one who knew you had a profoundly different experience with you. You had such a long, beautiful, hard, loving, and impactful life with so many souls.

Your neighbor came over after you passed and talked about how they cried when they heard you had left. You baked them cookies and let their kids play in your yard.

You didn’t change the world, you changed the world of those who knew you.

That’s what changed my life.

I’ve been trying to change the world while neglecting the world that is my life.

You made waves wherever you went, without even trying, just by being you.

That’s the life I want to lead, one like yours, simple and profound. It was simple because you were where you found yourself, and it was profound because you loved there.

These words still do you no justice, and no words ever will.

Someone told me at your bedside one night, “You’re her guardian angel.”

And I said, “She is mine.”

One day I’ll write more, but for now, all I have is this.

As I’ve said in posts before, “All I ask for is Love.”

And God gave me you.

I love you Grandmama, and I will miss you everyday.

Thanks for being our Grandmama. Thanks for being you.

With all my love,

Your Catiebelle

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