My Mamaw died a few weeks ago. She was an extraordinary lady. Throughout my entire life, she was always there. I had the amazing privilege of living with her as a young child and then later as an adult. The memories I have of Mamaw are simple, everyday memories–licking the spoon when she made peanut butter candy, eating cereal at her bar as a late night snack, drinking coffee on the porch in the morning sunshine.
Nowadays, people play with and entertain children all day. I don’t remember Mamaw ever playing with me. She was too busy taking care of everyone—cooking and cleaning for multitudes of people—to find time to play. But she always had time for a hug, to offer a listening ear, and to let me know I was loved.
My grandmother was an amazing caretaker. As a deeply committed Christian, she served the Lord and others with a rare dedication. For the majority of her life, Mamaw fixed breakfast, lunch, and dinner for numerous people; washed the dishes by hand; kept a spotless house; and met any and every need she discovered throughout the day. When a person was terribly ill, my grandmother would selflessly nurse them back to health or care for them until the Lord came to take them home.
Mamaw was never happy with doing something satisfactorily. She always did the best job she could. When sleeping at Mamaw’s house, a sleeping bag on the floor would never be good enough. Mamaw would make elaborate pallets on which her grandchildren would sleep. An egg crate mattress and a mound of blankets as a base, a set of sheets, and more blankets for warmth made up her “makeshift” beds. Amazingly, she always seemed to have enough bedding to make pallets for all of us, no matter how many kids stayed at once. I often drifted off to sleep, wondering how a pallet on the floor could be more comfortable than my real bed.
Mamaw’s hospitality was boundless. Anyone who came in her door was met with open arms and treated like family. At Mamaw and Papaw’s house, a person could drop by unexpectedly for a warm meal and move in for a while if they needed a place to stay. My mom says that she and her siblings brought in strays. Everyone was always welcome.
Mamaw passed on her hospitality to my mother and then to me. My house will never be as clean as Mamaw’s, but I hope that people will always be as comfortable in my home as they were in hers. I don’t know if that is possible, but it is my hope!
Experiencing the death of a loved one causes you to take stock of the past and look to the future. In going through this process, I realized that our adoption is in part my Mamaw’s legacy. Though Mamaw never legally adopted anyone, she made a home for as many people as she could.
Sometimes people are surprised or confused by our determination to adopt, especially when they look at our two beautiful boys and learn that we could have another biological child. I don’t think Mamaw ever felt that way. When I told her of our plan to adopt, her immediate response was, “Well that’s wonderful.” She was totally and completely supportive.
Mamaw didn’t care what race our child will be or where he or she will come from. These things weren’t important to her. I really don’t even think she thought our adoption was a big deal. A child somewhere needs love, a home, a family. We planned to provide these things and so would she, just like she always had.
I miss Mamaw so much. Comprehending that she won’t be just down the road from my parents is difficult for me. But I think one of the things I have grieved most is the fact that she will never know her adopted great-grandchild here on earth. What a joy it would have been to see her love on our third child! Thankfully, I know that someday they will meet in heaven. And our child will snuggle into Mamaw’s arms, as soft and comfortable as one of her pallets.