A Time to Grieve: Part III

51P21tvRLRL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_It’s been almost six months since my mother’s death on May 24. I wrote about my grief process back in July initially, and then again in August. Both of those posts included reflections on the series of booklets by Kenneth C. Haugk, Journeying through Grief. This week I received the third of the four books in the series, from Mary Lewis, the Stephen Minister and Grief Ministry Coordinator at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi—the church my parents helped establish in the 1950s. The church in which I was confirmed as a communing member when I was twelve. The church in which I was married in 1970.

This third booklet is titled Finding Hope and Healing. I found two sections to be especially helpful. The first is “Talking Is Healing.” Haugk encourages those of us who have lost a loved one to talk about it—to share our feelings:

Talking is healing. Talking helps you locate your pain, bring it to the surface, and let it go. And because your grief doesn’t suddenly go away, the pain recurs, and you need to talk about it again an again and again. That’s why grieving people need to talk about the same feeling or memory over and over.

I remember one night a few weeks ago when I was a bit depressed and my husband asked me what was wrong. I simply answered, “My mother died.” He smiled gently and embraced me, making himself available for my words. Talking helps. And for a writer, that often means writing. It’s almost ironic that just before my mother died I finished writing a book about my years of caregiving with her. Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s will be published in February. But this summer I read all the way through the manuscript again, not only proof-reading for errors but also letting my words into places where my heart needed healing. I read parts of it aloud, which felt like sharing those words with a friend, or maybe with the little girl inside who had lost her mother to Alzheimer’s years ago—the little girl who had always been grieving for a different kind of mother, for one who could love her unconditionally.

Another section in the booklet spoke to me—“Letting Go of Guilt.” I’m sure my feelings of guilt are shared by everyone who has ever been the caregiver for an aging parent. It’s that feeling that you can never do enough—that you could have been a better daughter. One thing that I found helpful in this section was this:

View your guilt as someone else might. It may be helpful to look at yourself as if you were a third person. You may see how unrealistic your expectations are. If you wouldn’t blame another person, why are you blaming yourself? If you’d have compassion on another person who is grieving, why wouldn’t you have compassion on yourself?

I actually experienced this from real, living “third persons”—close friends who reminded me not to blame myself. Friends and family who told me that I had been a good daughter. That what I had done was enough. Again, Haugk says:

Remember the good that you did…. Take a fresh look at your relationship with your loved one and recognize the good things you did as well. Commend yourself for those.

EFfieSusanhandsOne of my favorite memories of “good things I did with Mom” is from six years ago. I wrote about it here: “Coloring Violets With Effie.” Mother was very artistic, but I couldn’t get her to draw or paint in her latter years. So I took a coloring book and crayons to the nursing home and we colored together. At first she was shy about it—perhaps she was thinking it was childish. But once she got into it with me, she started remembering things she loved and talking about them—her favorite color (purple); how much she loved flowers and making flower arrangements. It was one of my favorite visits with my mother.

February 2010, around Mother's 82nd birthday

February 2010, around Mother’s 82nd birthday

 

So today I’m again thankful to the folks with the Stephen Ministry at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Jackson for this gift, and I look forward to the fourth and final booklet in the series when they send it. What a blessing for my grieving heart, which is healing.

Families Caring for an Aging America

Families Caring report coverMy book, Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s, will be out in February. I’ve been researching ideas for marketing, and I’m especially interested in speaking to groups who have a special interest in Alzheimer’s, like caregivers.

My husband, who is a physician, just sent me this link to a report called “Families Caring for an Aging America,” from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (from September 13). The report was written by Richard Schulz and Jill Eden, Editors; Committee on Family Caregiving for Older Adults; Board on Health Care Services; Health and Medicine Division; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

You can download a PDF of the full report here.

Here’s a summery of the report from the National Academies:

At least 17.7 million individuals in the United States are providing care and support to an older parent, spouse, friend, or neighbor who needs help because of a limitation in their physical, mental, or cognitive functioning. The circumstances of individual caregivers are extremely varied. They may live with, nearby, or far away from the person receiving care. The care they provide may be episodic, daily, occasional, or of short or long duration. The caregiver may help with household tasks or self-care activities, such as getting in and out of bed, bathing, dressing, eating, or toileting, or may provide complex medical care tasks, such as managing medications and giving injections. The older adult may have dementia and require a caregiver’s constant supervision. Or, the caregiver may be responsible for all of these activities.  With support from 15 sponsors, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened an expert committee to examine what is known about the nation’s family caregivers of older adults and to recommend policies to address their needs and help to minimize the barriers they encounter in acting on behalf of an older adult. The resulting report, Families Caring for an Aging America, provides an overview of the prevalence and nature of family caregiving of older adults as well as its personal impact on caregivers’ health, economic security, and overall well-being. The report also examines the available evidence on the effectiveness of programs and interventions designed to support family caregivers. It concludes with recommendations for developing a national strategy to effectively engage and support them.

On the one hand, it’s sad that we need a national strategy to support caregivers—which speaks to the fact that so many people are living longer and therefore need help, whether they have Alzheimer’s or other issues. On the other hand, I’m glad to see the National Academies focusing on developing the support so many caregivers need now, and will continue to need in the future.

In Appendix G of the report, “Caregiving Stories,” one daughter expresses frustration about issues similar to what I faced when Mom broke her hip:

I am so angry that my head might explode. At about 5:30, I was handed a bunch of papers by the head of the rehab department at the hospital where my mom has started physical therapy. We all thought this was a great idea. But apparently her Medigap policy denied this coverage. I have requested a ‘fast track’ appeal. She has already started the rehab work 2x a day. I hope they keep going with the treatment while this nightmare unfolds. I hate this.

And later, the same daughter deals with her mother’s risk of falling since she ignores the alarm on her bed and wheelchair (which I also went through with my mother):

Mom did well in physical therapy, on her second day. She walked up and down the hall with a walker, according to her roommate, a former home health aide herself. I have one question. She keeps getting up out of bed, even though her bed and wheelchair are alarmed. The alarms don’t phase her. It doesn’t seem to stick when she is told to stay in bed, or not to stand up…. The staff come in to help, but a momentary delay could produce another fall (god forbid) …

I’m so glad this report is coming out, and hope that it will be helpful to many people. My mother’s journey is over (she died in May) but millions of others can benefit, and I can’t help but wonder if I—and other caregivers—will be the on the receiving end of this care one day.

An Apology From This Old Blogger

A few weeks ago I got a comment on my blog that said something like, “It’s great to see older people blogging.” Needless to say, I didn’t allow it to be published on my site. Instead I allowed myself to be slightly offended—why did this person think I am old? Does he know I’m only 65? Does he think 65 is old? Has he seen my picture and thinks I’m a curmudgeonly grandmother-type? Hmmph!

Barbara Crafton

Barbara Crafton

And then yesterday I read Barbara Cawthorne Crafton’s “Almost-Daily eMo” from The Geranium Farm. Although the piece was talking about an image of the Mother of God and Christ with angels, St. Francis was in the corner of the picture, and she focused on his appearance. From that she morphed into why she was having a new picture made of herself, and why we care what someone looks like—or why we want to know what someone looks like.

We really want to know what people look like. Radio announcers—you have a vision of them in your imagination, and it can be disconcerting meeting them in person. Some people only SOUND tall, dark and handsome.

Authors, too: we think we know who they are because we have read their words. We picture them in our minds, and when we see photographs of them, we’re slightly shocked. She sounds so sexy and gorgeous. How can she look like my grandmother?

One answer to this, of course, is that you may have seriously underestimated your grandmother. And the other is that the mind itself is beautiful, and far more potent in its beauty than anything the body can summon. Young people receive this news with minimal interest, but older folks are counting on it.

 Yes, I want to be considered sexy and gorgeous, and I think that my grandmother (my mother’s mother) was beautiful, and my mother—who died at 88 this past May—was gorgeous, even as a great-grandmother. I paid good money for a professional photographer to capture my best look for my author photo (which I use as a profile photo on Facebook) and I carefully screen and crop any photos before posting them. I guess I’m pretty vain, but growing up as a woman in the South teaches us to always put our best face forward. (I love the title of Southern author Shellie Rushing Tomlinson’s book, Suck In Your Stomach and Put Some Color On!)

There’s nothing wrong with caring about our physical appearance, so long as we care more about what’s on the inside. And so long as we spend as much time and energy cultivating generative lives—reaching out to others and being active in our creative lives—as we spend on our physical bodies. I think this becomes more prominent in our thinking as we get older, which is one reason I decided to put together the anthology I edited, A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be (coming from Mercer University Press in March, 2017).

CourageNow that I’ve discovered Crafton’s Almost-Daily eMos, I’ve become a fan of her writing. I just ordered her book, The Courage to Grow Old (Moorehouse Publishing, 2014). As I consider what she might have to share, I glance over at the books on the turntable beside my “reading chair,” and I remember discovering—about this time two years ago—Nicholas Delbanco’s wonderful book, Lastingness: The Art of Old Age. And then I re-read my blog post about the book, “Tribal Elders and a Hopeful Genre,” and I’m delighted to see my progress since then! I was still plugging away on my novel (a six-year work in progress for which I now have a contract pending… more on that soon!) and I hadn’t even conceived of Tangles and Plaques or A Second Blooming, my two books coming out in January and March of 2017! I wrote about my sadness at not having achieved my goal of publishing a book by age 60… and now I’ll have two books by 65. Just barely, as I’ll turn 66 on March 8.

If it sounds like I’m rambling now, that’s because I am. What started as a post about physical appearance has morphed into an emotional outpouring from my “old” soul. So, if the reader who commented that he was glad to see older folks blogging is still reading my blog, please forgive me for not publishing your comment. Send me another comment, and I’ll try to be less defensive. Today this old blogger is feeling thankful to be doing what I love. Thanks for reading!

Mental Health Monday: How Brain Disorders Influence Art

My husband recently sent me this link to a fascinating article in MedScape: “From Jazz Bass to Impressionism: How Brain Disorders Influence Art.” He knows I’m a big fan of abstract expressionism—especially artists like Willem de Kooning (and his wife, Elaine, who is actually one of the three main characters in my novel, Cherry Bomb)—and that I’m always fascinated by connections between mental health/illness and creativity. (De Kooning is one of the creatives discussed in the article.)

In the introductory paragraph, the author John Watson explains his reason for delving into this “collection of painters, writers, and musicians whose neurologic conditions informed, and sometimes interrupted, their life’s work.” Watson believes these observations “can help achieve one of art’s greatest objectives—to shine a light on human experience at the very place it is created, understood, and expressed: our brains.”

from Willem de Kooning's later works

from Willem de Kooning’s later works

Of course I was most fascinated by Watson’s evaluation of Willem de Kooning’s later works, which he excelled at for several years after he was unable to perform routine daily tasks due to Alzheimer’s disease. de Kooning and his works were evaluated by clinicians, who were astounded at the complexity of the work he did fairly late into the disease process, saying “his productivity may indicate the preservation of the artist’s working, procedural, and episodic memory, and other neurologic underpinnings crucial to seeing out artistic concepts.”

The preservation of his procedural and episodic memory well into Alzheimer’s disease? This reminds me of the importance of keeping things like music and art available to Alzheimer’s patients as much as possible, which I wrote about in this post in January of 2015, “Alive Inside.”

 Watson also explored literature, citing Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “searching depictions of individuals facing stark moral crises in otherwise unjust societies are regarded as foundational texts to the fields of psychoanalysis and existential philosophy.” Dostoevsky suffered from epilepsy. Watson’s research showed that “modern imaging attributes ecstatic auras to activation of the anterior insular cortex.” Another mental health issue possibly resulting in creative genius.
The article shares insights into the struggles and creative successes of a dozen artists, including:

Frida Kahlo—spinal injury and related neurologic disorders;

Woodie Guthrie—paranoid schizophrenia;

Chuck Close (contemporary American painter)—dyslexia and prosopagnosia (face blindness);

Stevie Wonder—colored music synesthesia;

Friedrich Nietzsche—oscillation between euphoria and deep depression, possibly caused by syphilis;

Lovis Corinth (German impressionist painter)—right hemispheric stroke;

Charles Mingus (bass player)—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;

Charles “Buddy” Bolden (jazz cornet player)—alcohol dependency and schizophrenia;

Vincent van Gogh—more than 30 retrospective diagnoses.

I was fascinated by every reflection. If you’re interested, just click on this link and scan through to the artists that interest you and read the short stories about what they suffered and what they shared with the world.

Mental Health Monday: The Summer of My Discontent

The Summer of My Discontent by Melissa Pynn http://www.elfwood.com/u/lissapynn/image/fcf50b10-254b-11e4-8293-7393fb7fed06/the-summer-of-my-discontent

The Summer of My Discontent by Melissa Pynn

Today I am declaring the summer of my discontent as officially over. Three long, hot, hard months of weight gain, depression, grief, sloth, lack of exercise, over-eating, over-drinking, and over-thinking are OVER today. Labor Day seems like a good time to turn this ship around.

Of course it helps that I’ve got such exciting news on the publishing front and plenty of work to be done to get those two (and maybe three) books birthed in 2017. There’s definitely a correlation between my depression lifting and those emails and phone calls and meetings with publishers the past couple of weeks.

Today’s post might seem to be as much about physical as mental health—and it definitely is—but for me, the battle is always as much mental. After watching the Olympics in August, and now the U.S. (tennis) Open, I’m reminded over and over again how much success in athletics is a mental thing. My two favorite sports to watch are tennis and golf, and I’ve seen many a seasoned athlete lose, not so much to other players as to himself. We beat ourselves when we let stress and negativity overwhelm our efforts at success, in any area of our lives. So today, I’m focusing on one of those areas I’ve neglected this summer—exercise.

Aerobic Dance Instructors at Phidippides Sports, Jackson, Mississippi, 1985

Aerobic Dance Instructors at Phidippides Sports, Jackson, Mississippi, 1985

During my years as an aerobic dance instructor (1982-1991) I worked out regularly and never really thought of it as exercise, because it was fun. I love to dance, and I love to teach. (And yes, I even loved the cute outfits with the leg warmers and headbands back in the 1980s.) But when I quit teaching in 1991—twenty-five years ago—my battle with exercise began. I tried taking aerobics classes, but found it hard to motivate myself when I wasn’t the instructor. I had temporary success with Curves (circuit training) in 2001 (when I was recovering from surgery for cervical cancer) but that was the last time I participated in any kind of organized exercise program.

Breaking my neck, leg and ankle in 2013 greatly hindered my efforts at exercise. Walking on hard surfaces (outdoors) hurts. I can’t do yoga. Pilates hurt my back. Swimming takes too much time (okay that’s my excuse, though I may have to get over that one day). And so I’ve pretty much been limited to the elliptical machine for the past four and a half years. And it’s right here in my office, with a view of my flat screen TV. In the air-conditioning. How difficult can that be, right? (I’m trying to take inspiration from Venus Williams, who is ranked #6 in the world at age 36, in spite of having Sjogren’s syndrome. Makes my arthritis and other aches and pains seem insignificant by comparison.)

Older-woman-holding-weightsWith new information encouraging us that 150 minutes a week is good enough, and that those minutes can even be broken up into 10-minute intervals, I should have no problem hopping on the elliptical once or twice a day and logging those minutes. Which I plan to start doing again. Today. (And I’m trying to remember that exercise isn’t just about weight-loss.)

I’ve gained back 5 of the 15 pounds I worked so hard to lose over the past year, so I want to lose it again and another 10 or 15 more. I know it won’t be quick, and I know success will depend upon overcoming my eating disorders and committing to exercise. And not just for weight loss—I realize I also need to start doing some strength training to build muscle and bone. Haven’t figured out a plan for that yet. Today, I’m all about getting back to the diet and exercise.

Happy Labor Day!

Faith on Friday: Faith-Based Presses and Four-Letter Words

I’ve got exciting news that can’t wait for next week’s “Writing on Wednesday” post: I just got a publishing deal for my book, Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s! It’s a collection of essays culled from eight years of blog posts. I’m over the moon with excitement. But here’s something I didn’t see coming. The publisher is a small, faith-based press (they also publish secular work, and mine really isn’t a “Christian” book) with a pretty loyal readership (they send out regular newsletters with their catalogue), so they asked me to edit out the four-letter words!

The-fascinating-history-of-our-favourite-four-letter-words

 

The funny part is, they don’t even know my husband is a priest. He’s probably rolling his eyes if he’s reading this, although he really likes my novel, Cherry Bomb, which will not be published by a faith-based press.

The bottom line is I’m happy to oblige, and I certainly don’t want to offend any potential readers. The publisher is thinking the target audience is baby boomers who are caregivers—at some level—for their aging parents. Or maybe even some of those aging parents themselves. But I hope that younger folks will also read Tangles and Plaques. Maybe it will help some people who might be facing these issues in the future. And evidently that’s a lot of people. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and more than fifteen million people provide care to people with dementia.

So, I hope the censorship protestors will forgive me for taking out some of those colorful words. Hopefully the words that are left will be enough to move you to tears, laughter, or both.

Mental Health Monday: Brain HQ

This morning I read a short article in the August 8 issue of Time Magazine that is intriguing. It’s a health piece in their “The View” section, this one on longevity:

 

“Health: Can brain training protect you from dementia? New evidence is promising” by Alice Park. (I couldn’t find an online link to the article, but here are more pieces by Park in Time.)

 

Park writes about a study at the University of South Florida that tracked 3,000 healthy older people ten years after giving them a five-week training program. Well, one of the randomized groups did the computerized program focusing on processing speed. And ten years later? That group saw a 33% reduction in the amount of dementia or cognitive impairment compared to the other groups, who received different or no training.

brain-hq 

A researcher at the University of Alabama created the program, which was later updated to an exercise called the Double Decision, which is now available as a smartphone app called BrainHQ. It costs $96 for a one-year subscription. I’m considering downloading it and giving it a try. Jerri Edwards, who led the study at South Florida, says, “I think everyone over 50 should start doing it.” I might give it a try….

Mental Health Monday: A Time to Grieve

 

Mother's Day 2007, at Ridgeland Point Assisted Living Facility

Mother’s Day 2007, at Ridgeland Point Assisted Living Facility

This past Friday marked 40 days since my mother’s death on May 22. What’s the significance of 40 days? In the Orthodox Church, we pray the prayers for the departed (and read Psalms) every day for 40 days after a loved one dies. It’s very comforting, directs the heart and mind towards God and our own death, and petitions Heaven for the salvation of the departed, which is a belief held by Orthodox Christians, if not by our Protestant friends. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Meanwhile people continue to ask me “how are you doing?” My closest friends and relatives know that mine is a complex grief for several reasons. The most obvious is that I already grieved the loss of my mother a few years ago when she no longer recognized me due to Alzheimer’s disease. And then there are the issues of our mother-daughter relationship being complicated by the verbal and emotional abuse I suffered from her for most of my life. I was able to forgive her for that a few years ago, so I’m left with the choice to remember the good things about her.

She was the queen of celebrations. Every birthday, every holiday was a cause for major decorations and gifts—all handmade and very creative. She taught me how to celebrate.

She was a wonderful grandmother. Her grandchildren seem to remember mostly the good things about “Granny Effie.”

She was a supportive “helpmate” to my father, who was very well-loved and successful in many arenas—including sports, religion, and the business world. In retrospect, I believe she set aside some of her own desires and pursuits in order to support his careers, especially as he became a hero of sorts in the world of running and marathon competitions.

jtg_book_1_coverAnd so now I’m left with only a little paperwork to wrap up her financial affairs, since she no longer owned property, and with those memories. This morning I looked again at the brochure I received from the good people at the church she and my father helped establish in the 1950s in Jackson, Mississippi—Covenant Presbyterian—titled “A Time To Grieve: Journeying Through Grief,” Book One, by Kenneth C. Haugk. The accompanying letter from the church’s “Stephen Minister and Grief Ministry Chairman,” Mary Lewis, says that more brochures will follow. It’s really a nice way to reach out, especially considering I haven’t been a member there since the early 1970s. The brochure is well-written, and addresses many issues that the bereaved might be facing. I found this section especially on point:

Quality of the Relationship

Some relationships are very close, others distant; some are amazingly harmonious, others fraught with conflict. The quality of our relationship with a person will affect our grief when he or she dies. It’s often said that the closer we were emotionally to the deceased person the greater our grief. While that is certainly true, it’s also true that a strained relationship can make grief more difficult…. The death of an abusive parent or spouse can result in feelings or relief rather than loss.

I think I would have felt that relief when Mother died, except that I already went through those emotions a few years ago when she lost most of her mental capacities to Alzheimer’s. She became sweeter. She “forgot” how to be mean to me or to speak ill of others. That was a relief. As a result I found the ability (by God’s grace) to forgive her and to begin to love her more. And so I truly mourned—I wept and I wailed—when she died.

Papaw and Granny EffieAnd so today I am no long grieving. I am at peace. And I pray that she is, too. I picture her in Heaven with my father.

When I look at the last picture I have of them together (from about twenty years ago, before my father’s life was cut short by lung cancer, and before the plaques and tangles had begun their devastating work on my mother’s brain) I cry tears of joy. And I ask them to pray for me and for their grandchildren.

Mental Health Monday: Third Acts—Single After Single After Single

Sally Palmer Thomason signing "Delta Rainbow" at the launch of her third book in Memphis last week

Sally Palmer Thomason signing “Delta Rainbow” at the launch of her third book in Memphis last week

While waiting for the anthology I edited—A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be—to come out from Mercer University Press (next spring), I find myself noticing “second bloomings” everywhere I look. In the email updates I receive from Richard Rohr, whose writings on the second half of life were part of the inspiration for my book. In the real lives of some of the contributors to the anthology as they continue to bloom, like 82-year-old Sally Palmer Thomason, whose book launch I attended last week, and Emma Connolly, whom I visited at her needle and craft shop in New Orleans recently, where she is happier than she’s ever been. These women and many others are thriving in their second or third acts.

ATM Cover_June-July-min.imgcache.rev1464274133567And then there are the celebrities. Watching the Tony Awards the other night, I couldn’t help but find joy in the continued success of “women of a certain age.” And then there’s the cover story for the June/July issue of AARP the Magazine, “21st Century Leading Ladies,” featuring Alfre Woodard (63), Jane Fonda (78), and Sharon Stone (58).

Fonda took some time off from acting to do a “life review,” spending five years deciding what to do next, having retired from acting in 1991. Comparing life to the theater, she observed that “the final act is the one that can make sense of the first two.”  She returned to acting in 2005 and hasn’t stopped yet.

Woodard talks about her life as an actor in terms of how to use her talent: “What people are calling my gift is my ability to surrender what is there for absolutely everybody. What we call our talent. We surrender to different talents. And that’s the decision.” It’s almost as if she’s calling on all of us not to squander the talents we have that need to be shared, which is what so much of art is about—making the personal universal. I feel this pull in the very small universe of this blog and my own writing projects, but also in the choices I make about how to spend my personal time—reaching out to others,  nurturing my marriage, taking care of my health, loving being a grandmother.

jane-fonda-sharon-stone-alfre-woodard-aarp-magazine-03Stone, who is perhaps best known for her sexy role in Basic Instinct and her continued svelte body and good looks, survived a near-fatal massive stroke in 2001. She spent two years teaching herself to read again, and learning to walk without a limp and talk with stuttering. At 58, she says, “just being alive is pretty exciting.” But my favorite quote from the article is her description of her professional life since her stroke: “I didn’t have enough stamina to hit a home run. In the game of life, you just have to be able to hit single after single after single.”

I don’t think Stone meant that no one should try to hit one over the fence. In my own work, I’ve been striving for a home run with my novel for over five years, but I’ve recently begun to focus on my complete body of work (over fifteen published essays) instead of hanging all my hopes on having my novel published by one of the big houses. Stone’s positive attitude has helped me look at those essays as my way of hitting singles. Even now, as I strive to find my “next big thing” to write, I wonder if I should quit obsessing over another novel and just write some more essays and see where it leads. I’ll close with these final words of wisdom from Stone:

I’ve stopped questioning everything, and that gives me a lot more room to breathe. I think it’s just getting comfortable in yourself—in everything, but certainly the work.

Writing on Wednesday: Jason’s Ode to Granny Effie

Susan w EffieParis was wonderful! So busy there was no time for blogging. But while we were there my 88-year-old mother was taken to the hospital. We got home late Tuesday night, and I was able to drive to Jackson Wednesday afternoon to be with her, thankfully before she leaves us for Heaven. She seems comfortable, with help from oxygen and Morphine, but mostly from all the folks in Jackson who have been with her while I was in Paris, and also our oldest son, Jon, and our niece, Aubrey Leigh.

She squeezes my hands as I sing to her and read the 23rd Psalm (her favorite) and tell her that Jesus is preparing a place for her in Heaven. We are just waiting with her as she makes this final journey. It is a sacred place, this waiting. I remember doing it with my father back in 1998.

Our younger son, Jason, posted the following words about his grandmother on Facebook the other day. Jason is a compassionate soul, and also a good writer, so I want to share what I have called his “Ode to Granny Effie.”

What do I remember about you?

I remember a woman that was always happy. Always so polite and hospitable. I could instantly see where my mother got her manners from, manners she then passed on to her children. “Southern Hospitality” is more than just a phrase. It has deep meaning in the way we treat other people and no one was more loving than you. I don’t remember ever hearing you say a word in anger. Not once. But I also can’t remember Papaw saying a word in anger either… so perhaps that is just how all grandkids are supposed to remember the elders they love and respect. I remember feeling different, but never feeling like I was “adopted” in Jackson, Mississippi. This is no small thing because I was continuously reminded of that later in life. There are frozen mental images of Phidippides , clothes on racks, a back room with a play area, and a workout room. I don’t know what is my memory and what are figments of my imagination, but in most of them you are smiling. You are there offering us a peppermint piece of gum, the square ones with the liquid in the middle. They are great memories because I remember you in them. I imagine, although I thankfully can’t remember, that my year prior to arriving in Jackson was not the happiest time in my life. I imagine a lot of the happiness I found was due to your kindness, that of you and your husband. The gift of your daughter, my mother, and their gift in turn in adopting me. Of giving me the life that although sometimes has been dark… now is a light unto itself with my wife and children, which I never thought I would have. I hope you aren’t in pain right now. I hope you know we love you.

Jason Cushman

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