This is a love letter for my sweet Grandma, Rita Rae.
She has shaped my life in every way…from my favorite things and how I see the world, to my relationship with God. How would I describe her? She is one of the strongest, feistiest, and creative people I know. Her jokes, stories, laughter, and distinct sayings are forever ingrained in me.
She frequently reminds me we are bonded for life with a story that goes something like…
“When you were first born, no one could get you to eat. Not your mama, not your daddy, not even the nurses. I showed up fashionably late to the party, met you for the first time, held you in my arms, and you drank an entire bottle.”
Apparently I was just waiting for her to show up. 🙂
When my mom passed away, my Grandma Rita stepped in to help my Dad raise two young kids. I’ll never forget those nights at my Grandma and Papa’s house in our red bunk beds. She taught my little brother Derek and I how to talk to God and how to cope with the loss of our mother. She purchased an angel statue and painted it in the likeness of my mom…brown hair and dark brown eyes. She placed the statue right by the front door as a reminder that our mom was always nearby as our guardian angel.
She juggled a career, took an active role in her church, remained a loving wife to my Papa (they’ve now been married for 58 years!), all while playing a leading role in our lives. She made every single Halloween costume and encouraged us to participate in extracurricular activities…never missing a school play, a dance recital, or a sporting event.
As I got older, my Grandma taught me about beauty (“never leave the house without your face on!”), how to bring out your features without wearing too much makeup (“be careful or you’ll look like you fell in a paint bucket!“), and dressing modestly (“choose arms out or legs out, but not both at once!”).
She even made my dresses for each school dance and when I “outgrew” her designs, she took me shopping to find the prom dresses of my dreams.
I will never forget her beautiful garden filled with ivy, pansies, and wild flowers. She always had large hanging flower baskets on her porch and plants inside her home. I’m sure my plant obsession today comes from her and of course…anytime I see flowers, I think of her.
For many years, she has experienced the confusion and pain that comes with Alzheimer’s Disease. For a long time, there were more good days than bad days. But lately the bad days have become frequent unwelcome visitors.
Today when I woke up and learned her heart is giving out, I wept. Knowing she is in the final days of her life, I cried selfishly….because I will miss her sweet smile here on earth. But in my heart I know, it’s almost time for her to fly free.
Today I have spent most of the day in prayer, and I’ve also been looking at old family photos. I knew bringing my thoughts here and sharing them with all of you would be therapeutic for me, and it has been.
Thank you Grandma for showing me what selfless love and true dedication look like. Thank you for being a rock in my life and laying a solid foundation for me. Thank you for loving me how you do. You are always, always a part of my heart.