The tears rolled down profusely as I held the telephone receiver in my hand. My aunt was still on the other end, demanding that I immediately rush over to Grandma Mary’s house. At this instant, my gut instinct responded by tightening up indicating that something was definitely wrong. And it was only then; memories of her youthful days flashed across my mind, reminding me of her mantra, “You must never allow anyone to steal your joy”. And it appeared as if she was standing right beside me, but I knew it was just a fragment of my imagination. I confirmed there and then to myself, I recognized now that I had lost someone, but I would have something with me for life, the value of unconditional love my grandma often displayed amongst her family and her neighbors by extension, and she would always reiterate how much she wanted it to live on.
Granny Mary was like a female Goliath. Blessed with a dark chocolate skin tone, moles and wrinkles canvassed her face which we often referred to as the storylines of her life. But the positivity she gave off could connect a grounded wire on a cold winter night. How she did it, she alone knew. I remember her making ends meet, and providing food for her family after two failed marriages. As the other half of her twin, Uncle John would pay his sister to do his laundry, cook his food and maintain the downstairs of the home which he occupied. And yes, pretty amazing how this money brought up six kids and assisted my sister and I as the two first grandchildren in the family.
Not only did she raise her grand kids, but the entire neighborhood’s children were taken care of by “Aunty Mary” also, a name she would always be remembered by. I can still recall how many days the neighbor’s kids will come without food or clothes, but when they left, their tummies were filled, and late evening shower already taken. We would all surround granny as she read a bible story and explained the role of each person mentioned in the bible. It was as if her joy was ensuring that all children were always happy and knew the value of love. And yes, this stood out most, because to this day, I share the same sentiments when dealing with my daughter and my niece, or all children I interact with on a daily basis.
To this day, I could count the number of times I saw a toothy smile on her almost daunting face, after that late December afternoon when the hospital called to say my Uncle Brian passed away after being involved in a motor vehicular accident on the Solomon Hochoy Highway. She continued to emphasize that we were totally in control of our own happiness, and we should live life to the fullest always displaying love and making sure all is well with our soul as we never know when the good Lord will call us home. I remembered her kneeling to pray with her every night before we go to bed. She embedded that prayer was the answer to every problem you can ever encounter in this life and happiness is within one’s self. Grandma Mary would often have us assist her when she picked peas or fed the chickens in the backyard. We watched the chickens developed from baby chicks to mealtime. And yes, we’d joke about it when it was time to catch them to have grandma prepare some great soul food for us.
In April 2012, I was able to display the said qualities Grandma Mary embedded in us. I gave birth to a still born baby boy, and all I saw after giving birth, was my grand-mother’s face. How she’d often say God is ever to wise to make a mistake, and God sees what we don’t. Although I didn’t want to hear that at that time of grief, I clearly remembered dreaming her one night, giving me confirmation that all would be well, and continue to love and have faith in God. And as I thought about her the morning after I was discharged from the hospital, I made hot cocoa, and the aroma took me back to twenty years ago when my grandmother was alive. We’d wake up to the aroma of hot cocoa and her favorite Jim Reeve would be blasting through the house, “If heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?” And it was as if she strengthened me to look forward and not regret. I remembered her mantra, and I did not allow the death of my son to steal my joy. I still had my daughter to brighten up my days, and prayers assisted me in trusting and believing that God had better plans for me.
As an individual, I can associate part of my grandmother’s journey to that of mine. No mother comes on this earth with the intentions of having to bury their own child, but all in all, life has to go on. And not just go on, but I am in control of my own joy. The qualities she left us with have continued to reign throughout my family, and every time I sit to tell a story about Grandma Mary, I can safely associate her with love, faith and God. The aroma of hot cocoa today brings a smile on my face, and each time I hear a Jim Reeve play, I’ll see her wrinkled face. There is no greater joy in having a loved one live on although they are no longer with us in body. I am one hundred percent guaranteed she is indeed happy with the positive value we continue to display. And the deep voice ringing through my head, “You must never allow anyone to steal your joy”.