For Maw Maw…

My grandmother recently passed away surrounded by family after a long, hard battle with cancer. After her death, I felt compelled to write a eulogy and wanted to share that today:

I could go on all day about the countless things that made Maw Maw special. Known for her big heart and her big personality, everyone who was fortunate enough to have known her can undoubtedly say the same thing. But it is the little things that I will remember most, having grown up and shared many cherished memories with her. It was her warm smile that could brighten any day. It was her loud, contagious laugh. It was her delicious home cooked meals that always left you stuffed and satisfied. It was her stories and memories shared on the porch from her childhood and of a world long gone. It was her quiet wisdom that reassured us in our moments of need, worry, and doubt. But most of all, it was her love. It was a most pure form of love. A love that was quietly and humbly given but strong and powerfully felt by everyone she bestowed it on.

Hearing her tell stories of her childhood always filled me with wonder and an admiration for the circumstances that she overcame. She grew up poor and destitute in the small-town community of Sweetwater, Tennessee. With an absent father and a sick mother who was isolated from her with tuberculosis and who died shortly into her childhood, the challenges for her must have been unimaginable. She mentioned her family had very little prospects for her and the framework of her life then was small and meager. One thing that struck me is when she told me that she hardly ever remembered being hugged as a child. There was little warmth and affection to be had in those hard times. While recalling her childhood, she would often say that “the Lord raised me”. Her faithfulness in God lifted and guided her, against all odds, out of these desolate conditions to become the women we all drew inspiration from, as a leader, a teacher, a healer, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a caregiver, and a lover of all.

From the greatest triumphs to the darkest moments of our lives, she would be there to listen, unfailingly, with an assuring smile, kind words, and a boundless wisdom. She was a shining example of strength, compassion, charity, kindness, humility, resilience, wisdom, gentleness, and love. She planted these seeds early on within each of us. I feel forever grateful to have had someone so passionately embody each of these qualities, for they are lessons for life that we can hold onto and seek to emulate ourselves. We have big shoes to fill, indeed.

            I had many cherished memories with her, but one recent memory that sticks out in my mind is one that I wanted to share today. It was during one of the last weeks I was living in Seattle. I was feeling down and lonely from the quarantine, missing my family and friends more than ever, and ready to be home. I had heard Maw Maw had taken a turn for the worse and I knew that her time was coming to a close. I remember I was out near my truck, having gone on a short walk, when I received a text that Maw was awake and able to talk. With the help of my dad, I was able to Facetime her for a brief moment. I remember she answered and I could see her precious face on the phone. There, laying heavily on the pillow, she looked weak and frail and it was apparent that she barely had the energy to utter a word.

            And yet, she managed to gently look in my eyes and say “I miss you and I love you so so much.” Even amidst her exhausted condition, looming on death’s door, and in undoubted pain, she still managed to say that sentence with a warm smile and all the power and emotion that she could muster. Even in her darkest moment, with almost no energy to spare, I felt her love most truly in that moment, even from 2,500 miles away. I told her I missed her and I loved her back and we hung up. I sat there quietly in the truck as the finality of her situation really hit home for me then and there. I couldn’t help but weep in that moment, raw and uncontrollably, as I knew our precious time together was coming to an end.

Our precious Maw Maw is gone now, but only for a time. She was an endless fountain of love for everyone who had the good fortune to know her. For our family, she was a matriarch of love, faithfulness, and support that will far outshine her days and will live on through each of us. There are no words to adequately cover the gratitude, admiration, and inspiration I hold in my heart for her. There are no words to convey what she meant to each of us but if I could say one last thing to her now, it would be thank you. Thank you for the endless blessings that radiated from your being. I hope you know how abundantly you were loved by all who felt your grace. You fought the good fight your entire life and I am thankful that your suffering is finally over after many years of struggle. May your spirit now find peace, and forever bask in the love and light that you gave to each of us in your brief time here on earth. I love you and until we meet again, you will be most dearly and deeply missed.

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