My Mama would have celebrated her 94th birthday today. She didn't live past the age of 65 and I still miss her presence.
She was a city girl who moved to the country to teach in a rural high school. She was a small woman, not more than 5' 3" in heels and she loved stylish clothes. She wore her beautiful cornsilk hair in a roll around her head. She was every inch a lady though I became aware as I grew up that she hid a sharp wit and a clever tongue behind that facade. She could quell an unruly 8th grade boy with a look, a practice she brought to bear in motherhood as well. We children didn't get away with much.
Though she grew up on the outskirts of a thriving city with all the amenities a city has to offer, when she married my father and moved to a rural area an hour and a half away she learned in a hurry how to grow food for her growing family, cook the game my father loved to hunt, and keep an old house in good shape. I played dress-up in her beautiful, seldom-worn dresses and skirts while she turned to slacks and housedresses. Living on a chicken farm where she raised a large vegetable garden, chopped wood for the fire, tended flower beds and chased spiders with dust cloth and broom was dirty work.
It was her cheerfulness that I remember most, and her steadfastness. Gracious is a word I have always associated with Mama. She could be counted on to look for and find the best in everyone, to weasel the silver lining out of the darkest cloud, to embrace trouble head on and find a peaceful solution, to look at all of life with an attitude of awe and appreciation.
It helps to think of her now, to imagine what she would say in the face of the sudden deaths of two great friends in the space of three weeks. I can hear her soft steady voice in my head telling me to look for ways to comfort those friends left behind, and to find ways to let myself grieve. I take long walks, write poetry, find green places to sit while I weep with abandon. Healing will come, she whispers to me, only after you walk willingly through the shadows.