For Granny

Today, we said goodbye, for now, to my Granny. I had the privilege of speaking at her memorial service. So this is for my Granny and for the loved ones who weren’t able to share with us, today:

Good morning! My name is Theryne Mae. I am the granddaughter of Iris Mae and I am honored to share about my Granny with each of you. To anyone who knew my Granny, knew her gift for hospitality. My Granny was never happier than when family and friends were gathered around her table eating a meal she had prepared for them. Granny showed her love through her cooking and I must say if you were ever one of the lucky ones at her table, you sure felt loved by her cooking. I have never met a better cook. Most of my fondest memories with her revolve around food. Like when I would spend the night, I was always awakened in the morning to the salty aroma of bacon or sausage drifting through the bedroom door. Sometimes it was biscuits and gravy and others, oatmeal. She was that good of a cook. She made oatmeal taste good. I have never been able to make mine like hers. And coffee. I can say without a doubt that my love of coffee is entirely Granny’s fault. When I was little, I used to plead with her to make me a cup with breakfast. She always complied and whipped me up a cup of “frothy coffee,” which was pretty much sugared milk with a dab of coffee. But I felt so big. Perhaps, well not perhaps, for sure, Granny’s most well-known and loved dish was her coveted chocolate sheet cake. There’s simply not a better one out there and I’m not just being biased. My brothers and cousins and I used to fight over who would get to lick the frosting bowl and who would get the beaters while she was mixing it up. It is an established rule that my cousin Tara and I should always get a corner piece. It’s the best piece on the whole cake where the frosting has settled in and it’s nice and thick. It is the cure for chocolate cravings, broken hearts, and loneliness. When you taste Granny’s cake, you taste love and you taste home. In the summer, Granny always canned fresh vegetables from the garden. I can remember sitting on the back porch with her and my mom and Aunt Lori snapping buckets of green beans for entire evenings, it seemed. But the delicacy of her garden was the beets. Granny pickled beets every year, which she served at family dinners and we would often argue over whoever got the last one. Since becoming a wife, I now grow my own garden. I always plant beets and use Granny’s recipe for canning them. And I cry a little every time I prepare them. I think of her and I miss her. In summers past, I would always call her to tell her I was canning beets and thinking of her. This summer, I will miss her even more. I will miss her phone calls. I will miss her boxes sent in the mail of random treasures she found at a garage sale or the Tuesday House. I will miss her beet stained hands. I will miss her lilting script in birthday cards. I’ll miss the earthy smell of her home, quiet mornings on her back deck. But Granny will always be with me. She is in every mention of my middle name, every beet that I can, every chocolate sheet cake that I bake, every garage sale that I visit, every lilac I smell, every red bird I see.

I will treasure this past week, spending the final earthly moments with my Granny, holding her hand, watching her breathe, witnessing her final soft inhale, remembering the ways she loved me and my family. In the last seven days, I have learned and witnessed and withstood more than I thought my heart could take. I have seen so much. I have seen abundant kindness. The kindness of fragrant prayers of faithful visitors. The kindness of chips and salsa dropped off in the middle of the day. The kindness of volunteers filling the kitchen in the Journey Home with meals and the comforting aroma of brownies baking in the oven. I have seen profound love. The love of family patiently sitting by their dying cherished ones. The love of an embrace that soothes tears or brings them to releasing fruition. The love of a husband in his unremitting watchfulness. The love of a son in his quiet, steady presence. The love of a daughter in her tender care. I have seen so much beauty.

This week, as we waited for my Granny to enter the gates of Heaven and my new nephew to enter into the world, I was struck by the parallels of birth and death. The waiting, the counting of breaths, or contractions. The suffering, the pain, but in the end, new life. And you know, that’s what makes it all bearable. Knowing that at the end of the labor pains a beautiful baby is placed into your arms. At the end of the suffering, a beloved soul wrapped in the arms of our Abba Father. My Granny’s fifth great grandchild, Leo Morrison Franco, came screaming into this world hours after her quiet, gentle departure from it. It reminded me of Psalm 30:5 “weeping may remain for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” And when my Granny went on to be with Jesus, we did weep, we still do, but not as those without hope. While my Granny gave me the most beautiful childhood memories and heart touching recipes, the greatest gift she bestowed was her legacy of faith. I am eternally grateful for the hope that I have of seeing my Granny in paradise. A hope that was bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. A gift freely given so that no man can boast. Praise you Father for conquering death! Praise you for your mercy!

Friday evening, I was going through my Granny’s well-worn Bible, relishing the written notes of her hand and treasure trove of wisdom. In the back, she had written a note requesting it to be read at her memorial service. So per her request, I will leave you with her words:

Let me take from the scrap bag of my life.
The pieces of memory
The blue flowered calico of a little girl’s dress
The red checked gingham of a little boy’s shirt
The lace of a wedding gown
The satin of a baby’s quilt
The linen of a shroud
Stitch them together with tears
Out of the pieces make a whole
The pattern complete
The quilt of my life

“Then the dust will return to the earth as it was and the Spirit will return to God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7