It's hard to believe that it's been 9 years since I last heard my grandmother's voice. Had she not taken her place in heaven already, she would be 77 years old this weekend.
I miss her so.
But, lately, I see more and more that she's never truly left me.
I don't say this in a ghost-haunting or angel-on-earth sort of way. I say this as a reflection of myself and of my own daughter.
My grandmother is someone I have always cherish and respected. I look up to her, even still, knowing that she went through many struggles in her own life, and came out of them still smiling, still believing in God, still professing His love and her faith, and still believing in the good in people and the good in the world.
She had a husband she loved, but due to complex reasons, it didn't last forever... much like my marriage. The reasons for our divorces were greatly different, but the result was similar. We became single mothers, never in our lives imagining that would be the case. She raised her six children on her own, and I wonder often how on earth she did that, when I struggle with only three young ones to provide for.
She was one of the biggest influences on my faith. I loved growing up going to church with her on Sundays. She would bake goodies for the fellowship hall, and we would attend. I sat next to her, instead of going to Sunday School, and gladly took sermon notes. I sang my heart out to the hymns and professed my beliefs via the Apostles' Creed, and would pray the Lord's Prayer with heartfelt meaning, not just reciting it as many. I loved our time together. I attribute my desire to continue to go to church largely to my Grandma as my mentor and role model in my early years.
Instead of turning away from God when life got hard and messy, she turned to Him.
Now, I can't say that my Grandma was never weary or burdened, or felt worn down raising her children, because obviously, I wasn't around to see it. But I believe she relied heavily on grace and mercy and all of the promises God makes to us to sustain her each day, through each frustration that motherhood inevitably brings. I strive to live in that fashion. Though, I wish she was around to help remind me on the toughest of days, I know that I have other supports who will and often do, not to replace my Grandma, but to walk alongside me as she would if she still could,.
I developed my love for baking and crafts because of my grandmother, largely, as well. I would often come over to her house and help her bake or cook, or we would paint things, create knick-knacks, doo-dads, earrings, and Christmas decorations. We colored, and drew, and played card games while listening to the radio, singing along. She loved country music, but also hymns and Christian songs. I can still see her foot tapping under the table while her black radio sat beside the window and we played Yahtzee or some other game. We would both sing along. I hear songs that remind me of her frequently, and I still sing along and remember her vividly.
I miss her so, Some days more than others, but always, I miss her. I wonder if she would be proud of the choices I've made, what she would stay when I start crying with struggles, what advice she would give to me in the trenches of single-motherhood, and how much she would love going to church with me now. I long for her to have met my children. I think she would be amazed and overjoyed that they love to pray, that they sing "Jesus Loves Me," and that they're learning other hymns that I can't help but sing sometimes. I think she would be so excited to hear my oldest tell his siblings about the Garden of Eden or about Noah's Ark or about the Resurrection of Jesus.
I believe she would tell me I'm doing a good job out here.
As I said, though, she's never fully left. You see, I feel her inside me, somehow. Not in a physical way, but in a way that's influenced my spirit, my soul, my mind, and my heart. I think that she helped me develop so much during my younger years that parts of her personality are shining outwardly through me. I believe I'm very much like her in ways I never saw before. I suppose trials will bring character you never expected, and that is what happened here.
I also see her in my daughter. Norah was named after my grandmother's blood line, the name coming from her own mother's middle name, Nora. I've loved it forever and to be able to pass it on to my own daughter was such a blessing. But it's more than a name.
Somehow, I see my grandmother in my daughter's eyes. Now, my daughter has brown eyes, as does her dad, but when I look at her, I don't see his eyes. I see Leora's eyes. I don't know how to pinpoint it exactly, but they seem so familiar, like I'm looking at my grandmother all those years ago. My daughter looks like me, she looks like my mom, and she looks like my grandmother. Some of her stances, her gestures, her poses, her remarks, her expressions... they all remind me of my grandmother though. As much as I miss my grandmother, I love that about my daughter.
I wish I could tell my grandma happy birthday this year, to her face, in a card, over the phone... I've left her notes on her grave in years past, done commemorative photos, poetry, and blog posts. I miss her the most on her birthday. It's always a hard day, and I often find myself lying in bed, crying over my loss, wishing she was around, and stunned that I've made it so long without her. I remember the night she died I sobbed hysterically to my former husband "I don't know how I'll live all these years without her with me!"
Somehow I have.
I suppose, it's because she still exists, within me.