This past Friday was spent with family on my dad’s side. Not because it was a pre-planned get together, but because my grandmother, my Mana, passed away.
Her last few years were not without their challenges and health hurdles. She was constantly bound to her oxygen tubing to help her breathe and alleviate some of the issues of COPD. She also successfully recovered from a broken nose and a broken neck that she suffered during a fall in her kitchen prior to her and my Papa moving into assisted living.
Mana got to celebrate Papa’s birthday on February 13th and spend her last Valentine’s Day with him on February 14th. On the morning of February 15th, she didn’t wake up. Hospice described it as being in ‘transition’ as she was unconscious but wasn’t expected to wake back up. During the early hours of February 16th, my Mana, at the age of 87, was called home peacefully in her sleep and went to be with Jesus.
Since this news, my brain has been pulling so many memories from my childhood. I remember as a kid, when I went for a visit, she would hide a beanie baby or two under the covers of my bed for me to discover at bedtime. She also took me to several movies including Shazam and Good Burger. God Bless her for sitting through those with me. I joined her for mall walking mornings but I think we mostly went for the early entry and discount at the attached Atlanta Bread Company. I would get a chocolate eclair and she would have her coffee. Mana drank several cups of coffee a day and could be found at Barnes & Noble every time there was a new book release she had to have. And speaking of Barnes & Noble, I have a very vivid memory of one of those trips — I was riding shotgun in her Honda Odyssey van. We pulled into a packed parking lot and she found an open spot. It was a tight fit so as she continued forward she asked me if she had it in regards to clearing the car on my side. I told her no. She then said, “Eh, I think I’ve got it. [BUMP … SCRAAAAPPPEEEE.] Huh. I guess you were right.” We completely sideswiped the car beside us and didn’t stop until we were in that parking space. So we went inside for the store to make an announcement over their PA system. I can’t even remember if we got what we needed from Barnes & Noble, but after waiting for our an hour in the car and no one coming out, we left.
Mana gave the best back scratches with her long nails and her signature dance move was making fists and rocking them side to side. She wore glasses around her neck for as long as I can remember with a pearl lanyard all of us grandkids played with over the years. She was an avid crossword puzzler and had a kitchen decorated with roosters, which came from her love of the South Carolina Gamecocks. We went to many Carolina football games over the years and the whole family got together most Thanksgivings. There was always a running joke that her cooking was “fresh frozen” because a lot of it was things she had thrown in the freezer but she could make a mean chocolate bundt cake and a really yummy lemon apricot cake. I’m thankful she wrote those recipes down for me a few years back. I’m also thankful my girls were able to meet her.
The last time we were able to visit, I recorded me asking my grandparents how they met and what they did on their first date. It was the sweetest thing ever. You could tell it was something they hadn’t thought or talked about in awhile and were having just as much fun reliving it as I was listening to it. I’ll cherish it forever.
In that recording, one of the first things my Papa said was “She didn’t know what she was getting into!” And Mana said, “I thank God everyday I got into it.” On their first date, he asked her to go to the fair. Not having any transportation, they walked together on a dirt path on the side of the road. My Papa is terrified of heights but he said the first thing they did when they got there was ask Mana if she wanted to ride the Ferris wheel. Also scared of heights, but not wanting to say no, Mana said, ” Well … well … I guess so.” So they got on the Ferris wheel regardless of their fears and rode it together. Then Papa shared that the ride operator stopped it when they were at the top. I asked if he got a little smooch and they looked at each other and said yes.
Mana’s service on February 21st was intimate and beautiful. Her family was together and that’s all she would have wanted. She spent 68 years of her life with Papa, so as you can imagine this time hasn’t been easy for him. He absolutely worshipped the ground she walked on and it was so hard to watch him mourn his best friend. But being a man of God and now that things are settling, he knows she is at peace, free of pain and illness. Time will bring healing until we are ultimately healed by our Heavenly Father.
Time. Time is never guaranteed and it is limited on this side of heaven. The moments we spend are the moments that turn into memories and these memories are what we have to carry with us forever. You only live once, so follow your dreams and live the life you love.
I know when Mana arrived to Heaven and was embraced in the arms of Jesus, he said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I have since found out that Mana’s Lemon Apricot Recipe is to remain a family recipe, but I will share her chocolate bundt cake recipe once I find it. Until then, here is one other recipe she had given me that I was able to find:
1/3 box graham crackers
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c broken pecans
Break graham crackers into pieces on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Bring butter and sugar to a boil for 3 minutes. Stir constantly and while hot, pour over grahams. Spread the nuts on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Let cool and lift out.