Last week I posted an article about highly sensitive people. I love that it didn’t say overly sensitive.
And I think there is a difference.
There was research and a name and what I feel and experience with noises and light and textures—well–it’s a real thing.
And reading about it reminded of spending the night at my Mamaw and Papaw’s house during the hot, sticky Arkansas summers (that’s grandma and grandpa to all my Yankee friends) and my Mamaw would put a fan on us to help us stay cool in the un-airconditioned room.
But the air would hit the strands of my thin, straggly hair and it would tickle me.
So Mamaw would go and get bobby pins and one by one she would carefully tuck each piece back out of my face so that I could sleep.
The only reason I even had time to read this article is because the kids and I were on vacation in Arkansas.
I have had the great privilege of spending hours upon hours with my Mamaw. If I hadn’t made it back to Arkansas, I would have no regrets. But words evade me—I am every grateful for this time together as her earthly life came to a close.
Our first morning in Arkansas, I had about 2 hours with just Mamaw. She was alert and energetic and she squeezed my hand the entire time and she just talked.
She told stories that I’ve heard dozens of times and she told stories that were completely new. She talked about the early days in her marriage and even in her tired 99-year old eyes, there was still a twinkle when she spoke of my Papaw.
Gone now, for 26 years.
She told one of my favorites. Finding out at age 30 that she was pregnant with my Dad. Ya know—at such an ancient age and all!!
She said, “I didn’t know what I was going to do with your Dad and now I don’t know what I’d do without him.”
“Or your mom.”
She asked about my children.
“Emma Claire is the most beautiful child I’ve ever seen. Now Ronald (my uncle), he says to me, ‘ Mother! You can’t say that.’ But I just told him I can say whatever I want because it’s the truth.”
But in the same breath she commented that all of her grands and great-grands were beautiful.
She told stories about how she used to sneak her car keys (into her 90’s) and drive down to the old chicken houses. She just wanted to make sure she could still drive. Or that the car still worked.
She was fiery and stubborn and spirited and determined and I absolutely cannot imagine Rock Hill or Arkansas without her.
My parents grew up together. They were grade-school sweethearts, high school sweat hearts, college sweethearts. So Mamaw wasn’t just a Revels or just a Hale. She was a Coulter, too. She was a Mamaw to many.
And again—I can’t imagine Christmas or summers or Thanksgivings or family gatherings of any sort.
But, strangely, I’m not sad. Sad, yes. But, no—not sad.
The days passed while we were in Arkansas and she had good days and bad days. Emma Claire stroked her hand and sang “Oh, how I love Jesus,” and I know that she did love Jesus.
Watching my Mamaw smile at the sound of my daughter’s voice—in and out—but hearing and knowing—
How can I be sad about that?
She lived at home until she was 99 years old.
And had a grand ol party at age 95.
How can I be sad about that?
She lived to see marriages and divorces and grands and greats and —
She lived to see Ph.D.’s and world travelers and successful businessmen (and women!) and she saw grands become Moms; her babies having babies and how?
How can I be sad about that?
This morning I sat the kids down to tell them that Mamaw had gone to be with Jesus and Emma Claire began to cry. Then she had a lot of questions about how a body just quits—ya know—
I said, “Emma Claire, her body is still in the hospital somewhere, but her spirit has left her body and it lives on with Jesus.”
I went on.
“Ya know, I don’t understand it all, but what I’m really curious about is this. I wonder if she’s seen Papaw yet.”
They looked at me kinda funny.
I said, ‘Y’all. Your Mamaw loved Papaw. It was a true love story and she has missed him for almost 30 years.”
Emma Claire looked up at me and said, “So what you’re saying is, that she’s probably pretty happy right now?”
“Yes, Emma Claire. I think she’s pretty happy right now.”
And how can I be sad about that?
OK, so a follow-up.
I’ve had the past two Easters with my children. This was supposed to be Greg’s year. But somehow I missed it.
Easter: Even Years: Mother.
And remember the mess? And remember the mean? Well, upon hearing that I actually had Easter my heart sank.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Easter.
But sank because also on the list—
Memorial Day: Even Years: Father.
Without Memorial Day, there would be no family vacation with Mom. So my rant? My rave? I asked if we could switch but his plans were already made.
How could I have been so stupid? How could I have gotten so confused?
My children will be with their dad all summer.
How can I not have May? How fair is that I don’t get to take my kiddos on a family vacation.
Is anything ever fair?
And then the rant in my head continued, “That’s the whole reason we went home in February. I can’t take them back in April. I’m too tired. It’s too much. It’s—-whatever.”
But then it came. It always comes.
“What you meant for evil, He meant for good.”
If I had known? If I hadn’t been so stupid? Well, I would’ve planned an Easter trip to Arkansas.
And guess what?
Easter would’ve been too late.
We make our plans but the Lord directs our steps?
No vacation in May? OK. Sure, Lord. I hear you.
Washington D.C. can wait.
The beach can wait.
But my Mamaw had waited long enough and my children were given the gift of holding the hand of their Great-Grandmother on her death-bed and in their own special way helped usher her into the arms of Jesus..
And so I ask again, how can I be sad about that?