This poem is dedicated to the memory of my maternal grandmother, whose youngest daughter, my Aunt Rosetta, was laid to rest yesterday by our family, on my grandma Doris’ birthday.
Grandma Doris, whenever you left home, you would exit the door walking in your high heels shoes with your head held erect, a serious look on your face, your arms swinging by your side and holding a pocketbook in one hand.
In private, with your children and grandchildren, you would smile, laugh, rejoice and advise us to be observant of everything and everyone around us.
It was the rising of your high cheek bones marked by a black beauty mole on your right cheek that seemed to catch everyone’s eye even from the sky and your long black, wavy hair that made people stop and stare, making clear your ancestral heritage that you so proudly passed down and used to guide and direct the choices of your children’s lives.
You lived a life that proclaimed “onwards and upwards, never looking back with sorrow nor regret”. You lived your best life and taught us to do the same. You always said “it’s not how much a man has in his pocket that’s important but how much he has in his heart”.
You shared words of wisdom with your family – woven into a shroud from your mother, your grandmother and your great-grandmother; you often took time for fond memories and time to reflect.
You had a gift for gab, yet you were soft spoken showed gentility from within. Your heart was never filled with thoughts of revenge; you never yelled nor screamed at your children in an abusive tone. Instead, you suffered through the painful days of your young married life, until God granted you your freedom and any dark days of bondage were brought to a swift end.
Whenever you felt the glory of God upon you, you would lift your arms up in praise and shout, “ Thank you Lord! … over and over again. It never mattered to you who heard you nor what they thought of you because you knew deep down that the Hand of God had delivered you and brought you out!
Cooking was not your favorite thing because it reminded you of the three meals per day that had to be prepared for so many , many years. Ironically, being a tiny woman, you loved to eat and enjoyed mealtimes with your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, which were always festive events!
You taught us that holidays like Christmas were for sharing love with family and friends; you always made certain that arrangements were made to gather and celebrate, as a village…a village you built with love, caring, concern and hope from within.
Sometimes we thought the concern was too much…over – the- top for sure…EXTRA! But you never minded as long as you could continue to reach out.
Your guidance was built on life’s experiences and lessons learned; your progeny would do best to listen and take heed; your hands never partook in any unkind deed. You laughed at our jokes and we at yours. When we were small, you held our hands and kept us safe; when we were sick, you watched over us with patience; when we were afraid ; you held us whenever we cried in despair, you washed our faces and handed us a cold glass of water to quiet our sleep and free us from our nightmares.
Rarely, did I see you shed a tear except in sorrow for your sons because they were forced to live in a world that hated them because of the color of their skins despite the strength they held within…”Black Lives” did not matter back then, only fear.
Your tears fell silently and privately in strength, as each night you fell to your knees and asked God for His mercy and salvation upon the lives of YOUR children…and THEIR children…and THEIR children!
I remember asking you, “Mama Doris, why did you help that lady; you didn’t know anything about her? You would turn and look at me and say, “ I did it because I never know who might have to help my offsprings one day. We would then slowly drive away.
There were so many days that you would come home and share with us your stories, tales and adventures – the ones that made us laugh, until tears rolled down our cheeks and your infectious expressions would give way to the holding of our bellies and begging you to “stop, stop grandma before our giggles cause us to suffocate!”
There were far too many of those happy times to count. I still remember the escapades you would share that had filled your days and I still laugh like it was yesterday whenever I think of those happy times.
You made sure to leave us with joy and not pain; you pressed through the hard times without any shame; you never failed to advise us to read the Holy Bible and explain how it comforted you from Genesis to Revelations.
You taught your children and grandchildren to believe in the Word of God and to prepare for the “Rapture”.
You knew that you would leave us one day and your message was simple…”never, never cease to pray”.
I often repeat the things you taught us in my own home, until this very day.
It’s thanks to you, Grandma, that I don’t fear leaving this world filled with injustice, deception and grief because you taught me to believe that when God calls me to my heavenly home, as He promised…His love, your love and generations of love await me at that reception.
Happy Heavenly Birthday Grandma and thank you for being YOU!
By: Daphne Knox McClain