It is Monday, three days until Christmas break. It is a short week and my to do list is full.
I’m packing a box of donations to take down to the food pantry, when I get a notification on my phone.
My childhood role model or as she affectionately introduced herself, my adopted grandmother, has passed away.
It has been a long while since I have seen her, but the memories wash over me. It was her house I walked to after school. I would sit at the bar to her kitchen snacking on animal crackers that had been placed on a white napkin, while she prepared dinner in her early 80’s mustard yellow and wood decored kitchen. She would talk of what her grandkids were up to and point to pictures around the house. Soon my mom would arrive.
I would see her again come Sunday morning when she would come to pick me and my siblings up to take us to bible class; giving my mom a little extra time to get herself ready for church.
She was an icon of my early childhood years. She had a steady presence in my day to day life: from making our birthday cakes to traveling to see us when we moved. There are many details I do not remember, but I know pure excitement is the emotion that swarmed my young heart at the mention of her name. Her smile was her trademark feature etched in my mind.
My mom was a young single mom living far from home. As a mom myself now, I recognize the luxury of an extra hour to get yourself ready. I know why my mom loved her so.
Growing up, I never perceived I was lacking. I did not know we were poor. As a child, I did not recognize my mother’s struggle: 23 yo single mom raising 3 babies. In my twenties, I learned that much of our stability came from this lovely family.
After my parents divorce, they purchased my mom’s house and let her pay as she could until she owned it; It kept food on our table and stable housing for us all. It was never a condition on their love. In fact, they never mentioned it to me. My mom still owns that house today because of the sentimental attachment of security that home provides.
It is easy to want to help those that “can help themselves” or are capable enough to pull their own weight quickly after a little help. We often get a little more hesitant to help the messier families; The ones in need of longer commitments.
We were a messy family.
I did not know that then, but only because of families like them. They were not the only ones that nurtured us, but perhaps one of the most prominent.
As I paused from loading my donations, I recognize her fingerprints in my giving; To lavishly love regardless of messiness. Days came and went and it has been years since we sat and talked, but she played an essential role in shaping my heart in my formative years. She provided God’s hands in my time of need. I can only imagine how different my childhood could have looked without her in it.
Tonight is Winter Solstice. We loaded up to find a clear horizon, while listening to O Holy Night by Leslie Odom Jr. I find it is so very fitting that the day she was called home the Star of Bethlehem shines brighter than it has for 800 years.
Oddly, I do not have a single picture of her. However, on my birthdays she would swing by for a quick moment, drop off a cake, snap a picture, and off she would go.