That's her with some of her grandchildren at our family reunion. For years, she has made an appearance in the bikini shirt. Dances. Sings. And last year, when it was difficult for her to walk, her granddaughter's boyfriend helped her strut around.
Here's another reason...I've always known that Mary was incredible. Yes, she was sweet and wise, but sweet Lord, she was FUNNY! Her sisters (including my Granny, the one they call "Saint Alice") were usually embarrassed because she wasn't afraid to say something inappropriate. She always seemed much younger than her years. And she could grab a baby and love on them like no one else. As she would say, "I could just kiss your face off." (This is her with Connery in July 07.)
Sandy and the boys and I drove to Chattanooga to see her the weekend after Daddy called, and as hard as it was to see her weak, it was also comforting just to see her again, to be able to tell her how much we loved her. To see her wake and brighten when she saw the boys or when one of her grandchildren fed her ice cream or brushed her hair. When I first saw her, I sat by her bed, held her hand and cried silently. She opened her eyes--crystal blue, by the way--reached up and wiped my tears. As long as I live, I will remember that. It really symbolized what she did all her life. Even when she was in pain, she tried to comfort others.
When we left to come home on Sunday, I felt a strong pull to stay behind and just let the boys go home. My cousin David told me that my Granny felt the same way when she left. So on Thursday, I picked my Granny up in Crossville, TN and drove to spend Mary's last days with her. Those last days taught me more than I can ever sum up here. In fact, I think I will realize more of those lessons in years to come.
...Those two sisters taught me to appreciate my own. When they look at each other, I wonder if they see what they looked like when they were little.
...Looking through old pictures taught me that time is fleeting by. And that my dad and his cousin Pam played house when they were kids. ;)
...Watching Mary's children laugh and cry with her taught me that the bond between mother and child is always, always as precious as the first moment they meet.
We cried a lot that weekend. But we laughed. A lot. Often through the tears. And that, I think, is the greatest lesson.
My granny amazed me. She stayed by her sister's side almost the entire time we were there. At 11:20 Friday night, my cousin told me I needed to make her go to sleep. (I was flattered that they thought I could make my granny do anything. ;) But when I asked her to get some rest, she sweetly said, "I will. Just give me 30 more minutes. You can time me." I think she knew that Mary was leaving; 10 minutes later, she called my cousins to the bed, and I went through the house to get the others. At 11:35, Mary took her last breath.
Mary passed away quietly with her children, grandchildren and her oldest sister all around her.
At her funeral, I sang a song called "Mary" by Patty Griffin. Now, I can't get these lines out of my head.
Mary, she moves behind me. She leaves her fingerprints everywhere. Every time the snow drifts, every way the sand shifts, even when the night lifts, she's always there.
Sweet Mary, I do love you "gooder'n snuff and better'n bakker." I'll laugh at least once every day for you, kiss my boys at least twice, and make sure somebody wears that bikini this year. They'll dance. And we'll laugh.