I spent Saturday morning running around taking care of errands before meeting up with Ryan and the kids at Will's Miracle League soccer game. I'd left my cellphone at home (I never do this... ever)... it needed to charge so it could be ready to go for the evening's House of DIFFA event I was set to attend. Big mistake. Huge.
I was waiting for Ryan and the kids at the soccer facility - Ryan was looking around for me but didn't see me so I walked over to where they were sitting. Then I saw a familiar look on his face - that look he had when I had to go to the emergency room last year. Fear. Sadness. He pulled me aside and told me my younger sister had been trying to get in touch with me... and that my granny had died in her sleep sometime overnight. Granny's death was unexpected - while she's been dealing with some dementia and required around-the-clock home care, she wasn't sick. It wasn't like when my auntie Mable died last year - we knew it was coming after she'd been diagnosed with cancer. But my family often joked that granny, who was just shy of 89, would outlive us all.
By the time I reached the parking lot I was sobbing and felt like I couldn't catch my breath. I called my sister who was in the car with my mom. When she answered, there were no words. Just tears. I cancelled my plans for Saturday night because every time I thought about my granny, I cried. When I finally pulled it together that evening, I wrote the following on Facebook:
Thank you all for the messages, texts, prayers, calls, etc. today - definitely feeling the love. And I needed it. Anyone who knows me and knows my family understands the tremendous loss and pain we're experiencing right now.
My granny was the matriarch of the family... she was funny as hell and if you ever wonder where I get my cussin' habit from, I got it from her (along with the Billingsly forehead). Growing up, Sundays were spent on the front porch of her house after church. There was always family, laughter and granny's occasional tipsy dancing to "Down Home Blues." So many, many wonderful memories.
On this 50th anniversary of the march on Selma, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with granny on election night 2008. "Granny," I asked. "Yes baby," she said. "Did you ever think you'd see a Black president elected during your lifetime?" Behind her glasses she teared up... "No, I just can't believe it." She spent her childhood in the cotton fields of Tennessee then supported and raised three daughters on her own by working as "the help" in Beverly Hills mansions. When she worked as a janitor for LAUSD, she'd take us to work with her during the summer. We loved being able to play in the empty classrooms and write all over the chalkboards. So many good memories.
This is the last pic I took with my granny. I most recently spent time with her when I was home in September. In recent years, her memory was fading. I'd call and she knew it was me on the phone... but then she'd ask if I had any kids and when I told her yes, she'd ask how old they were. And every conversation ended with, "When are you coming home?"
Granny died peacefully in her sleep sometime last night just shy of her 89th birthday. Soon granny... I'll be home soon.
Sunday afternoon, Bryn told me she wanted to read something to me. She pulled out a Bible I bought her last year started reading:
As tears streamed down my face, I looked at Ryan and asked if he'd told her to read it to me. He shook his head "no" and as I sat in awe, Bryn told me it was her favorite part.
I went into my office and pulled out my mom and dad's wedding album. It's a small album that needs some TLC - I grabbed it a couple of years ago and brought it home with me to see if I could find someone to do some restoration work on it. As I flipped through the pages I smiled. Then I came upon this one:
Granny dancing with my dad; they are dancing next to my dad's best friend (Uncle Earl) and my nana. Everyone in this picture is in heaven now and no doubt having a blast.
I last saw granny back in September. Here's my last pic with her... I'm gonna miss her. A lot.