Many of you know that my grandma, Frances Simpson, passed away this past February. She had battled breast cancer for a year, just finished treatments, and then suffered a hemorrhagic stroke that was unrelated to any of her cancer issues. She lost the ability to swallow and therefore could not adequately take in nutrition. She had a living will that stated she did not want a feeding tube. We brought her home and cared for her until she passed away. I was privileged to speak at both of her funerals and would like to share some my thoughts and memories with you.
I was lucky enough to know my grandma both as a child and as an adult. We spent many nights with her when were young, my sister and I. She always entertained us. Having children now, I now know how much work that was. We watched Little House on the Prairie reruns that she would tape from TV (on VHS). We spent countless hours painting and sewing different projects. She gave me my first sewing machine. In the early years the projects were for entertainment purposes but as I got older, she really did teach me a lot. I met my husband, Greg, when I was 16. At a high school ball game, he reached over to me and hooked his finger in the belt loop of my jeans to pull me over to him and it tore. Guess who got to fix that? When Mema met Greg, he swears up and down that she gave him the ‘evil eye’ and said, “So YOU’RE the one who ripped Jessica’s jeans!” In the hospital, while she was in bed, I told Greg he better behave because she could still give him the ‘evil eye’. Greg and his family loved my grandma so much. She loved them too.
Mema was the ultimate servant. She never hesitated when the kids asked for something. She was never too busy to drop what she was doing for them. She always made sure that there was unsweetened tea for her grand-son-in-laws. We never wanted for anything when she was around. We searched and searched for pictures to put in the slide show for her funeral where she was actually looking at the camera. Her focus was always on the other people in the picture.
Growing up, I had a wonderful support system. We weren’t large, there were just seven of us, but we were connected. My mom, dad, sister, Aunt Dee, Papa Dean (dad’s dad), and Mema Frances (who my children later called Mema Francie) were at every sporting event, play, recital, assembly, etc. that was ever held. We attended church together. I always had “my pew” at church, filled with my family. I love that my children now have their “pew”. We did not all always agree or love every aspect of every part of every worship service, sermon, or Sunday school class we attended, but I did know that church was important to my family. I knew that we were united in our belief in Jesus. My grandma had a King James Bible, and I took it to the hospital to read out loud to her in those last days. I laughed at my inability to read it correctly while she smiled at me.
Mema took care of my babies one day a week. I love that they knew her so well. They looked forward to the days that Mema Francie stayed with them. One day Clara and I had been having a particularly trying morning. She kept needing to be disciplined and, like a devoted parent, I kept following through. She looked at me and said,”You know how sometimes when Mema Francie comes over here, and you leave? I think we need to do that today.” They would run to her as soon as they saw her. What wonderful memories.
I am very aware of the fact that my grandma lived 55 years before I was born. Many have memories of my grandma from a time that I will never know. There is a time in life when you believe your parents are always right. It is a strange thing to one day realize that they are not perfect. It takes even longer to learn that you grandparents are not perfect. Let me assure you, Mema was not perfect. She was not without fears, insecurities, or regrets. She definitely had all of those. However, she also understood forgiveness. She understood that she did not have to be perfect, because the one who was perfect has covered a multitude of sins. But she was at peace with herself, her friends, and her family.
To all of my family and friends in Georgia, I want you to know that the years she spent with us influenced us so much. She took care of us and we were honored to care for her in her last days. Experiencing death bed conversations is very surreal. She could not speak well, but she did get a few things out. She said very plainly one day, “I don’t want you to worry about me.” The entire day before she had been saying, “I don’t want…” but couldn’t get the rest out. She didn’t give up because it was important to her that we know this. After we brought her home, she told Greg and I, “I will be waiting for you.” We played Gaither Vocal cd’s for her and she could sing along with the chorus even though she couldn’t speak very well. She would squeeze my hand to the beat.
We can’t repay our parents and grandparents for the influence they have in our lives. It is an impossible debt to repay. What we do, in return for their sacrifices, is repeat them for our children, who in turn do for their children, and the cycle continues. So we roll it forward, and future generation are blessed because we were blessed. I am a better woman, mother, and wife because of her example.
On this first mother’s day without her, I rejoice that she is with her other children and grandchildren in Heaven. We will soon join her.
I love you Mema.
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
1 Corinthians 2:9