Forever Gifts

My maternal grandmother was 98 years old when she peacefully passed away in her sleep. Other than osteoarthritis, she had no life limiting disease. She had outlived all her family and friends and as a devout Christian, she was fearless of her inevitable transition. Fling open the gates, she was ready! With only a 4th grade education, she had worked most of her life in southern textile mills, a job of hard labor with long hours. Yet she and my grandfather, a small town barber, managed to send both of their children through college. My mother became an elementary school teacher and my uncle, a lawyer.

My grandmother, Alma, loved her garden and was known county wide for her wonderful cooking and premier baking. “Melt in your mouth” yeast rolls, persimmon puddin’, peach cobbler, chicken and dumplins’, and a killer fresh coconut cake were just some of the scrumptious dishes she was famous for. Her red velvet cake was a holiday tradition for my family for as long as I can remember. I have meticulously tried to replicate her recipes and even with her handwritten instructions my efforts have been disastrous. Of all the lessons she taught me, I must have been absent for the one on cooking. My last escapade was downright sacrilegious! Now I have learned to be forever thankful for the sweet memories and just leave it at that.


I remember sitting on the front porch swing with her. She would take her apron off, sit down with me and rock the old swing back and forth. When I was a child, I remember my legs sticking straight out unable to touch the wood floor.

Drinking sweet tea with my Grandma, getting lost in the rhythm of the creaking swing, the occasional car, her old dog “Tippy” panting from the Carolina summer heat, the sound of birds in the morning or crickets at night and the smell of lilacs… speaking words of wisdom about always looking for the good in people… few words yet just enough, because it was the way she lived her life… simple and by example.

She would say in a calm but serious voice:

“You gotta take time to rest, honey, everyday.
The chores will wait. Let’s just sit a while and be still.”

My mother, Gay, will turn a very young 80 this year. She has passed on the gifts from her mother to me by living that mantra. I have been blessed with a compassionate, loving and wise mother who has given me the ultimate gift of not only teaching me the importance of self-care, but of setting an example for me… one started by her mother.

We have traveled the world together, shopped ‘til we dropped or closed down the store, yet have been though unthinkable hardships. Her resilience is remarkable. Her long standing self-care habits are the reason she lives a completely independent and happy life, full of loyal and long time friends, an array of hobbies and a purposeful life. Her life choices strongly support her core values and her connection with her self-care beliefs. She donates her musical talent as her church organist, volunteers at a thrift store, and plays bridge twice a week… she does as much or as little as she wants.

My mom understands the essential value in creating her own joy, filling her own bucket, weeding out and saying “No” when needed and surrounds herself with the simplicity of a life she wants.

Mom, thank you for the gift of teaching me the importance of truly caring for myself and thank you for setting a stellar example for me. You set the bar high and I love you!I am inspired by her complete authenticity, graceful aging, and complete commitment to her physical, mental and spiritual health. I am so proud to be her daughter and only hope I can, at 80, be as beautiful, confident and young in spirit.