Saturday, December 31, 2011

Point of No Return Moments

Everyone has them…those moments in your life that once they happen, your life will never return to the way it was. Moments that completely alter the course of your life…forever. I’ve been very blessed in the fact that most of my Point of No Return moments have been happy ones. The day I met the man who would be my husband, the day he referred to me as his “wife” for the first time, the births of our children. All of those moments altered my life in the best of ways. There was, however, one Point of No Return moment that altered the course of my life completely, and while I know that it was inevitable, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish it had never happened. The day my Mamaw died.
In order for you to understand why this moment still weighs so heavily on me, even after fourteen years, you need to understand my relationship with my Mamaw. I’m sure most everyone has that family member to whom you feel the closest. Outside of your parents and siblings, there is that one family member that you confide in, that safe haven you can run to. For me, that was my Mamaw. She quit work when I was six weeks old to keep me so that my mother could go back to work. Living directly across the street from me while I was growing up helped to strengthen our bond. I was blessed to be able to spend almost as much time at her house as I did at my own. When I was younger, I didn’t realize what a rare treat it was to have grandparents who lived that close. Like so many things, I just took it for granted. I now realize how truly blessed I was to have all of that time with my Mamaw and to be able to forge such a strong bond with her. Even on nights like tonight, when the pain of losing her seems as overwhelming as it was on the day she went to her Heavenly home, I would not trade the relationship I had with her for anything in this world. She truly was an amazing woman, and by no means was she a “typical” grandmother. While she was all the things you expect from a grandmother…great cook, nonjudgemental, always smiling…she also had her quirks. Like the Vince Gill picture she had taped above her bed, her Jeopardy addiction, and her ability to watch any sport from football to bowling on tv and be able to explain even the most obscure rule for that sport. Not to mention her complete distain for any team or any player that ever managed to get on her bad side! To this day, I have a deep dislike for Steve Spurrier for no other reason than the fact that my Mamaw disliked him so strongly! She definitely was a wonderfully unique woman, and for nearly twenty-one years I was blessed to have her in my life.
And then, it happened. That one Point of No Return moment that still can bring me to my knees to this day. I’ve lost both of my grandfathers since my Mamaw passed away, and while I still miss them, it is not with the same intensity that I miss my Mamaw. I can tell you where I was when they passed, and I remember the aftermath of their passing. However, not with the clarity that I recall the day I lost my Mamaw. That day is still as clear to me as it was fourteen years ago. Looking back, I’m a bit surprised that I didn’t feel SOMETHING when my Mamaw left this earth. Some twinge, some strange sensation. After all, one of the biggest influences of my life had left me. I should have felt something, but I didn’t. At the time of her passing, I was living with my uncle and aunt in Jacksonville, AL while I attended Jacksonville State. My Uncle Randy is my mother’s brother, and was Mamaw’s son. I was supposed to have had an interview with one of my college advisors, but it had gotten cancelled. I was at home, waiting to go pick up my cousins from school, when I heard someone pull into the garage. Since it wasn’t time for anyone to be home yet, I assumed one of my cousins had gotten sick at school, and my aunt or uncle had gone to get them. I was rather surprised to see that both my aunt and uncle had come home, but it never dawned on me that something could have happened to my Mamaw. I’d just seen her the day before, a Sunday, and she was fine. While she had not been in the best of health, she wasn’t sick. I will never forget the look on my uncle’s face as we stood in his kitchen, and he told me that Mamaw had passed away. Later he told me that one of the hardest things about that day was the fact that he had to be the one to tell me. I remember looking at him with what must have been a mixture of shock and disbelief on my face and telling him that it couldn’t be true because I had just seen her the day before and that she told me she would see me the next weekend. How could she be gone if she had told me that? Once the shock finally wore off a little, I remember going up to my room to pack. My last clear memory of that day was sitting on the floor in my room with my suitcase open and clothes spread around me, crying as if my heart would break. Because that is exactly what had happened.
I don’t remember walking into my Mamaw’s house for the first time after she passed away, I don’t remember much about her visitation or her funeral. I do remember telling my mom and my uncle that she didn’t want her casket opened. She had once told me that when she died she didn’t want people looking at her and saying how good she looked. She said in typical Mamaw fashion, “Nobody looks good in a casket; they just look dead!” She wanted a closed casket and pictures of her set out. So that is what we did. I remember that before her funeral, they opened the casket for the family to say our last goodbyes. I know I must have gone in, but I don’t remember if I actually made it all the way to see her or not. I do remember running from the room, outside to the porch of the funeral home. And I remember the feeling of total aloneness that I felt. The feeling that no matter how many people were around that I’d always be alone because my Mamaw was gone, and she was never coming back.
It has taken me a long time, but I know now that while my Mamaw is not here physically, she is far from gone. Some may call it coincidence, but in fourteen years I’ve only dreamed of her four times. Once right after I met Robert. That was the most vivid dream I had of her. It was in April of 1998, shortly after Robert and I had met. She was sitting on my bed with me and we were talking. I told her about Robert and how it was such a chance meeting, the way we met. And then she looked at me, and said “You don’t really think it was totally by chance? Just because I’m gone doesn’t mean that I’m not still looking after you.” The saying “God doesn’t close a door without opening a window” really rings true for me when I think about that dream. I believe Robert was sent to me because Mamaw knew I needed someone, not to take her place, but to help fill in the hole left in my heart when she went away. I also dreamed about her right before finding out that I was pregnant with each of my boys. Not the vivid dream that I had about Robert, but dreams about Mamaw. I didn’t put it together until after Zach was born, but a couple of weeks before finding out I was pregnant with each boy, I would dream about Mamaw.
She is still here in other ways, as well. Especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas. One of my most prized possessions is her cookbook, where she handwrote all of her favorite recipes. Most of my childhood memories involve being in the kitchen with her while she cooked using that book. Now, my boys and I cook the recipes she and I cooked, and I tell them about her. About how much I loved her, and about how much she would have loved them, and about how she’s watching over all of us. And how we will see her again some day.
And so really, my Point of No Return moment really isn’t a point of no return. Because, while I’m still sad that she’s not here with me right now, I know I will see her again one day. I know that she is in Heaven, waiting for me, and one day, she will be one of the first people to greet me. And the first thing I say to her in Heaven will be the last thing I said to her on Earth….”I love you, Mamaw!”

No comments: