I was raised in a 2-parent household. But not in the traditional sense. Instead of a mom and dad I had a mom and grandmother, whom I fondly referred to as “gramma”.
When I think back on my childhood, it consisted of these two women. We moved away from extended family when I was young so they were all I had.
Things weren’t easy, but I never went without. Birthdays and Christmas were always a big deal. I woke up early, excited to open the things I had written down on my Christmas list. And things that I hadn’t. Meals were always provided for, even if I qualified for “free lunch” at school because of our income. Good night’s sleep were had, even if my mom and I shared a bunk bed and a room. They made sure to keep me out of inner city schools even if I had to catch a few city buses to get to the suburban school, or lie about my address. We did what we had to do.
My mom and I had our ups and downs and my grandmother prayed vehemently for us to stay in the ups. Sometime around her own passing, I can see, God started answering her prayers. He filled the gaps. He started a plan of restoration and healing and love. There was always love there but sometimes it was hard for me to see it in the midst of the brokenness.
My most fondest memories are towards the end. The three months He gave us when the brokenness was healed. The humility and redemption and love. Now I could see the love from her shining so brightly. Every time I came home and she greeted me at the door, wanting to hear about my day. The grief she held when I was being persecuted by my employer. It was like they were persecuting her too. Her presence at the hospital when I had surgery, never leaving my side. The safety I felt, sitting next to her in Bible study, learning the Word together, sharing the gospel. Sitting between her legs as she braided my hair, like she did when I was a kid. Playing pool together and her rooting for me to win.
Her, always rooting for me to win.
Those are the things I didn’t know I would miss. I only thought about the things I wouldn’t. You can never anticipate the loss.
My one friend asked, “How can anyone fill her shoes? How can anyone, when she was your biggest supporter? Your most faithful ride or die?” I understood what she was saying, but I thought about it and knew the answer. “You are right, there is no one person who can fill them. But that is why the Father gave me so many people to fill them. He gave me one to sew my clothes like she did because I can’t sew for the life of me (and have no desire to learn). He gave me another whom I have viewed as a mother figure for the last 12 years. He gave me sisters while my own refused to speak to me. And of course He became Father, when my own abandoned me at 2 years old.
But the truth is her shoes have been so great to fill and I have battled this last year with that fact. I didn’t know how her passing would affect me. I thought I could bounce back or be strong or pull myself up by the bootstraps like I had so many times before with different hard things.
Instead I have ran from the pain. I have self medicated. I have retreated in isolation instead of choosing to trust the One who has never let me down.
I have felt let down.
Anger has been a constant companion, but I know that is only a mask for the pain.
There have been so many days I have felt alone. Not just because I am single with no immediate family, but because His presence has been so far away.
I remember standing at the grave site, before they buried her. I stood at my grandmother’s grave for the first time since her passing. I never had a desire to go because I knew her spirit wasn’t there, but now, there is where I needed to remember. I stood there and wept and so many women stood over me. They held me and wept too. My loss was there loss. This was how He was now manifesting His presence. Through them.
It is now one year later and I didn’t grieve the way I would have liked to. I wanted to check off my checklist with my healing process. But some things are too great to be neatly categorized onto a list.
Today I will meet with the women who have been family to me. Being with them is life and love and comfort. We will have French-pressed coffee and share our hearts. I will have my first counseling appointment for the first time this year and I will take a road trip with a woman who has been relentlessly by my side these past 18 months.
We will meet other women, one blood related, one not, but both who love me dearly.
As difficult as this last season has been, I am grateful for the people. They avail themselves and restructure their lives just to be what I need.
They are love with skin on.
And even though the nature of our relationship has changed, E is there too. Being what I need him to be in this season. Rooting me on to heal.
I have to remind myself my mother chose to leave. She was sick and she didn’t want to put me through the experience of longsuffering as a caregiver that she went through. She also knew the people that I had in my life. That I would be ok because of them.
There are times that I am alone and that is apart of my story. But there are so many times where I don’t have to be. For that I am grateful.
And I know, that even though I can’t sense Him, feel Him, the way I used to, He is there.
Rooting me on.
And so is she.