For the past week, my mamaw’s condition has been steadily worsening. Her battle with parkinson’s disease coming to an end, my sweet sweet grandmother finally passed away on June 4th at 2:54am. I am glad that I was able to say my goodbyes and sing her favorite song “It’ll be Hard Not to Cry/No Tears in Heaven” to her one more time while she was still awake. Although she could not speak, her squeezes of my hand in encouragement let me know she was listening and I hope it was a comfort to her. I will always treasure that beautiful memory and I am happy that she passed surrounded by her children who very much loved her.
I understand that most of my mamaw’s life before I knew her, especially her childhood, was difficult and that she did the best she could with often very limited resources and little support. I am in awe of her beautiful spirit in the face of so much adversity. She never allowed her difficulties to make her hard and with what little she had, she was very generous.
In her last years, Parkinson’s disease had robbed her of her trademark expressions and had made the simplest parts of life very difficult. My mom, who was there when when she passed, says that at the moment of death the seized muscles that had so plagued her released, and with them all the pain and agony parkinson’s had put her through. She looked utterly at peace, about 20 years younger, ecstatically happy, and smiling.
My mamaw believed that dying meant going home and I am glad her race is through. She can rest now and the joy will never end. She was brave and tough to the very end and I like to think I am like her in that way. We have been very close my whole life and she has always loved me fiercely and unconditionally. I know that her love has made me braver, happier, and more successful. I’d like to share a story about this love with you all.
I will preface this story with the fact that (some of you know and some may not) that I identify as queer/bisexual. It just sort of depends on my audience which words I use (in a perfect world I’d not call myself anything.) All this means to me (if you are confused) is that I love who I love and that gender presentation or biological sex plays less of a role for me in where that love is directed than it may for many others.
I came out in college and I was a bit concerned about how my religious grandmother would take this information. However, after digesting it for a while my Mamaw eventually said “If my Mandy can be gay, then it can’t be anything bad.” I was floored. No “love the sinner hate the sin” attitude, but unconditional love and compassionate understanding. My mamaw knew what was up and it is not lost on my how special this was.
And that was it. It was like…I know you, you are good, I love you totally and NOTHING will ever change that. Her reaction, in my experience, is so rare for someone her age, especially given her upbringing and lack of education on the subject of sexuality. Although she never quite got my preferred terminology right, I always knew that she loved me. Her words cut right through everything to the heart of what matters in this life, loving who you love, out loud, proudly, and often. Mamaw somehow always understood me inately and deeply without my needing to explain myself too much.
Thank you Mamaw for believing that “the sun literally rose and set in my butt.” Your pride in me and your love helped shape me into the person I am today and I’ll never express adequately how thankful I am for the comfort of knowing I was loved so deeply by you. Every child should get the benefit of that kind of love and we need more of it in this world. I am so grateful for the time we had and the laughs we shared. I’ll always be your mandy, forever and ever.
Below is a picture of my Mamaw, Dorothy Fox, when she was a teenager. She was super cute. I see where I got it :D