Mamie’s Gone and Still with Us
What a year 2020 has been! Good riddance 2020! For weeks, we have heard tones of negativity that 2021 will bring more unwanted experiences. Many have already begun sewing negative attitudes into the fabric of the coming year. They have been using black filaments that obscure positive expectations, sullied strings of dissatisfaction, and rotted and weakened threads incapable of holding the pieces together.
Yesterday, we said goodbye to 2020 and looked into the new year.
Yesterday was also the day my family laid our 105-year-old matriarch, Mamie, to rest.
Mamie was love. Mamie was strength and resilience defined and redefined during every season of her life. Like the burnt sugar, capful of Johnny Walker, and dash of bitters she loved to add to her pots of stew chicken that made the air aromatic and tastebuds happy, Mamie flavored everything she did with lessons in living.
When I was young, Mamie often tapped the back of my head to remind me to pull in my protruding tongue and rest it on the upper ridge inside of my mouth. I can still feel her hand tapping the back of my head. I remember, and I smile. As much as I did not like those childhood taps, they were bathed in love and lessons that I came to learn and love over the years. Presentation means everything. We must work to cultivate good habits. Consistency is critical — practice, practice, practice. Tough love must prevail. Sometimes, lessons come with a whack, and we need that jolt to remember, restart, and relearn.
Mamie saw 1918’s Spanish Flu and 2020’s COVID-19. She experienced both with childlike peace. No fretting. No complaining about the state of the world, others, injustices, uglinesses, and limitations. In the former, I would imagine she played and did whatever her Mama allowed. She met the latter with a long-held understanding that time was short and with arms opened to embrace what would come next.
Mamie raised three girls on her own. They were aged three and under when their dad left for South America and never returned. She cared for her aging parents and her three babies, worked daily in customer service until retirement, and tended to her prized hanging ferns and plants around the home.
Mamie provided. If Mamie wanted anything for herself or thought about her exhaustion and the hardships that life sent her way, we never knew it.
Mamie was a giver. Daughters one and two became my mom and Godmother. They reinforced the lessons of sacrifice, long-suffering, and other-centeredness that Mamie instilled. My three mamas remain my role models today. I have seen them suffer misfortune and loss, and I have watched them rise and laugh in the days following. They have demonstrated and continue to model the lessons of love, listening, and giving, expecting nothing in return. Their hands always have extended help, support, and care, taking zero in exchange. Mamie established that legacy. Mom and god mom returned it to her tenfold in our matriarch’s increasingly dependent years.
In her last years, Mamie continued to give. When she needed full-time care, she provided daughter three with employment, income, and housing. When Mamie’s wallet was empty, daughters one and two and their children alike, opened their pockets to supplement that income for their sister and aunt. Mamie needed. Selflessness demanded sacrifice. Like Mamie’s stoic resolution to not complain, not once did I hear a grandchild, niece, or nephew grumble about having to contribute when giving was a challenge.
Mamie lived courageously. She did not poison her speech with resentment that her husband left, that she had to do on her own, or that life was punishing. Her favorite expression was, “Ca pour faire” or “What to do?” It was a rhetorical question. It meant “Tackle it,” “Let it go,” and “Go with the flow.” As conservative as she was, this was Mamie’s way of promoting risk-taking though there was no guarantee of return. Quitting was never an option. Challenges were obstacles to be overcome. Determinedly and patiently. And without complaint.
Mamie celebrated the simple satisfactions of life. She did not want much, never sought after material possessions, and made do with what she had. A rum and coke each evening might have been her only vice, if you can call it that. Rocking in the chair on the front porch, enjoying the cool evening breeze that nature or the fan provided, and having her family visit were her richest treasures.
There are no words to sum up Mamie’s beauty and goodness. These words are only initial recollections of who she was. She leaves her daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren behind to carry on her legacies of love, selflessness, courage, and gratitude for all that life brings. She has gifted us with many reasons to celebrate. Hers was a life well-lived.
Mamie, we love you, celebrate you, and are so thankful that you are at peace. We choose to walk bravely into 2021 and beyond, daily honoring you with our courage, laughter, gratitude, and love. As we begin sewing the fabrics of today and tomorrow, we will use filaments of positive expectation, silver-lined strings of satisfaction, and strong threads that will never be broken.
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