There’s nothing I love more than Sunday supper with my grandmother. Born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, Barbara Jean is the quintessential Southern woman. Every Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. she sits in the chair at the beauty parlor for a fresh perm and coat of blonde to cover her short, white hair. Each Wednesday she attends her LC church group - a handful of the church’s elderly that meet to discuss God, their ever-changing community, and the most recent passings. Grandma brings Krispy Kreme doughnuts or Biscuitville to each LC gathering and makes gift bags for birthdays and Christmas. Barbara Jean doesn’t skip a beat.
Last week’s supper with grandma was different for me than most. We enjoyed a roast, butta beans (as grandma calls them), rice, salad, and sweet tea. I listened as she relived her Saturday at the grocery store and gave me details about her ailments, which isn’t strange for our grandparents. I gazed adoringly at her white fluffy hair and watched as she slowly raised her fork to her mouth. How did this happen? She was never supposed to grow old. She was always the grandma who spent her days walking through art museums with us and watching as I tried to play her piano.
We wrapped up supper and argued over who was going to wash the dishes. I always clean the dishes, and I told her that I would win as always. Once the kitchen was tidy (I swear she uttered that she was going to re-wash the dishes), we hopped in the car and drove to an old, country cemetery in Durham, where her mother, father, grandparents and great grandparents rest peacefully. She wanted me to help her shove foam in the flower pots to make sure the silks stayed put. I stood there, watching her. I thought to myself that I would have to let this precious woman go one day. (Morbid, I know, but she talks openly about it and has told me the exact outfit she wants to wear.)
The flood gates of my heart exploded open with emotion. I didn’t show physical tears because grandma would have put a stop to it. I cried on the inside thinking about all the many things that I have to let go of - things that were good and served their purpose but now need to fly. It’s never easy letting go of someone or something that has brought you so much joy for a season - whether the season has lasted for 6 months or 30 years. I have a tendency to hold on to what is good. I want to bottle its sweetness and keep it forever. I was listening to a Rob Bell podcast about seasons and he said, “Sometimes it’s better to let go of a season when it’s good because we have a tendency to hold on until things actually become bitter.” Easier said than done right? How do you let go of a season that was so precious to you? How do you let go of someone you love but know you will have to eventually move on? I'm still trying to answer these questions, but I do know that the heart never truly lets go. The memories will reside in that beating vessel, pulsing through our veins to give us life blood, giving us life to move on to something sweeter. It's ok to keep the people who we have loved and who has loved us in our hearts because their impression was meant to actually move you forward.
So, the lessons I’ve learned from Barbara Jean:
- Move on but still care.
- She will always be my grandmother.
- It’s okay to be cordial with those who have hurt you because time ALWAYS heals all.
- She will always say her supper isn’t the best when it really is the one meal I look forward to all week.
- She has made mistakes in her life, but she still feels fulfilled.
- She loves unconditionally.
- She loves the color pink. She is basically Steel Magnolias.
- I have been so blessed to have her in my life for 30 years.
- We will never truly let go. We just learn how to live with the scars and make the best of them.