Her name was Dorothy Grace but I called her Grandma.
I was 14 years old when she left us and it felt like total devastation to me. Somehow I knew that nothing would ever be quite the same without her, and I had no idea back then how very right I was. I have so many wonderful memories with her, and a lot of questions too. Questions that I wish I had thought to ask before she departed her life on earth. I wonder why I didn’t ask more questions. Maybe it’s because I didn’t believe her when she told us that she wasn’t going to be here much longer, my dad had told her to stop talking like that, he told her that she was going to live for a long long time. She was his mother and he had just lost his father to lung cancer two years prior so, of course he wanted her to be around for a long long time, she was not even 60 years old yet. I want to know how she knew that her time on earth was short. I want to know what sort of spiritual connection she had with God to be able to know such a thing. She knew a lot of things, and she always seemed to be so sure of herself. She wasn’t a religious person, she didn’t go to church, but she would often go fishing by herself on a Saturday or Sunday. I wonder if that’s where she had conversations with God; I’m sure that she did, have conversations with Him; to have been so wise and creative.
I remember having so much fun with my grandma, laughing and singing, dancing and walking through the woods together, collecting wild things for holiday centerpieces and grave blankets. She made some of the most beautiful creations with just her imagination and whatever material God provided for her to work with, and she generously passed those skills on to anyone who was interested. I’ll never forget the annual Easter egg tree that she made for all of her grandchildren. We would walk through the woods out behind our house and look for a big branch that had just enough branches on it so that there was one for each grandchild. I remember one beautiful Autumn day she had all of us kids gather acorns off of the ground and we made acorn people and animals out of them with chicken wire and a little paint. The little birch bark canoes that she made with us were a lot of fun. Oh, and I will never forget the time we made paper mache animals in our dining room while my parents were out dancing. We were dancing and singing with the record player turned up loud, making a huge mess when my parents got home well after midnight and way past our bedtime. Even Grandma got sent to bed sternly that night. It still brings such joy to my heart when I remember the wonderful times with her. One time she had me walking back and forth across the living room floor with a stack of books on my head to teach me about correct posture and walking with grace. I wonder if she learned that from her grandma. Now that I’m a grandmother, these memories help me to understand what an impression I will leave on my grandchildren long after I depart this earth.
Although I have many wonderful memories of my grandma I can’t help but mourn for the loss of the many memories that we didn’t get a chance to make. She was always willing to listen to my ideas and curiosities, always ready to give answers and advice. One day I asked her about the yucca plants that grew all over the land that we lived on. She told me that someday she would teach me to make shampoo out of them. She always seemed so full of possibilities and adventure. One beautiful summer day we laid on our backs looking up at the clouds and she taught me to look at the shapes and tell her what I saw. I was amazed that I could see all sorts of animals and things in the clouds. She was the most magical person in the world to me. She told me that I could do anything that I set my mind to, and I imagine that I could have done anything in the world with her beside me. After she was gone I never imagined that she was still with me, but she was with me, in her words of wisdom, in the happy memories that I carry in my heart, and in the many ways that she left imprints on my life. Oh, how I wish that she were here, I would ask her all about her life and what made her the very unique and special person that she was…or is.
I came home from school one day to find a lot of cars parked out in front of our house, but not just any cars, they belonged to my aunts and uncles, and as I walked up to the house I felt a sense of dread. I felt that something must be terribly wrong for my relatives to be all visiting at the same time on a weekday. I opened the door to find my dad in the dining room sitting at the table with his siblings having a serious discussion. This scene looked so sadly familiar to me. When I asked my parents what had happened, I was told to go outside and play and they would talk to me at dinner time. I walked over to my mother standing at the stove cooking and demanded to know what happened. I don’t remember her exact words, but I remember getting the news that my grandmother whom I loved so dearly, had died. I ran out the door and out to the woods, I climbed my favorite tree and sat up there and cried. After a little while I went over to the tree house that my brother had built with inspiration and a little help from grandma, but he was preoccupied with his friends and I was angry with him, I don’t think he had been told yet. In the days to come the funeral services were held at the funeral home in the small town where we lived, and at the family cemetery just down the road from our house. It seemed fitting since my grandma had lived and raised her children in the very same house, my dad had purchased it from his parents when I was 4 years old. There were so many people at her funeral and at the wake which was held at our house. I remember hearing some of the adults talking about how they had never seen such a long funeral procession, and how she was well- loved. I cried for a long time, missing her. We lived way out in the country down a dirt road where our closest neighbor was at least a quarter of a mile away and if we saw a car coming down the road it usually meant company. I remember one day hearing a car coming and thinking, I hope it’s Grandma coming to see us, and then quickly remembering that she wouldn’t be coming to visit any more. I remember telling my dad that I saw her standing in my bedroom and him telling me that it was only a dream or just my imagination. I always believed what my dad told me and I never saw her again.
I had always believed in God and had gone to church pretty regularly as a child. My dad had told me that we were baptist, but I couldn’t remember my parents taking us to church. Even though I was too young to remember, I honored my dad’s wishes and as a high school student I became a member of the baptist church where my best friend and her family were members. I got involved in the youth group and had gone forward to accept Jesus into my heart several times because the preacher could preach hell fire and brimstone sermons that would make you shake in your shoes, and I believed that rock and roll music, dancing with boys and even wearing the wrong clothes could get you sent straight to hell. I can remember worrying about my grandparents and where their souls were, they didn’t go to church, they drank beer, smoked cigarettes and cussed. I knew that they had been raised in church and they never said that they didn’t believe in God. I remember when I was about 12 years old my girl cousins and I were talking about getting new clothes for the new school year and how we wanted training bras. Grandma heard us and asked, “what do you need training bras for, you don’t have anything to train?” She was quite a character, and I really laugh when I think of that now, but as I sat in church singing hymns for the alter call, I wanted to know if it was well with her soul, and I cried.
I had been thinking about my grandma quite often this summer, especially while I was spending time with my grandchildren, my oldest granddaughter will be 14 very soon, that’s the same age that I was when my grandma died. I remembered how it broke my heart and it inspired me to live long in good health and prosperity, for the sake of my children and grandchildren. I remember grandma teaching me about mind over matter, she said, “if you’re having a bad day or you’re not feeling well you just have to get up and say, by God I’m going to have a good day, if you sit around thinking about how bad you feel, well then you’re going to feel bad, it’s all mind over matter.” I wondered again about her life and I wondered where she learned these things, and then I thought of my grandchildren and how I hope that I can teach them all that I learned from her and more, and then I wondered if she would be proud of me.
Over the years, I’ve had some very spiritual experiences with souls who have departed their earthly life. Most of the time I have refused to tune in and listen to them, but there have been a few visits from souls who have had important messages to give to their loved ones and I just happened to be the vehicle that they used to deliver those messages. I’ve had confirmation from the people who received the messages from their loved ones by the facts that I presented, that I had no other way of knowing, and by the words and descriptions of what they showed me as well as the unique way that the message was presented. I have no doubt in my mind or in my heart that the soul does live on and that our loved ones are with us. All of my life I have found pennies everywhere and every time I find one I remember my grandma saying, “find a penny pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck.” I believe with all of my heart that every time I find one, (and it happens a lot) she is with me. There is a picture of me that my granddaughter took, there is a bright white shiny patch on my forehead. We couldn’t figure out what it was. I tried editing with filters and no matter what I did with the editing or lighting it was still there, I was thinking, there must be some sort of explanation for it but I had no idea, until I posted it on social media and a shamanist lady told me that she believed it was my great great grandfather trying to get a message to me. A couple of nights later I had a dream that confirmed it. This has led me down a spiritual path, a journey of a lifetime, an auspicious adventure and the epitome of self discovery. I invite you to embark on this journey with me as we explore the history, the love, the joy, the sorrow, the life lessons and the wisdom of our ancestors. I hope you will join me for part two of, “Her Name Was Dorothy Grace.”
~ Lisah Kaye