James 1:17 (NIV)
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Heavenly Lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
I love this Bible verse. It is one of my favorites, and one I have always associated with my relationship with the Tar Heel. Truthfully, this verse has kept me open-minded, honest and most importantly grateful for the Tar Heel. It is a reminder of everything that is good when I am upset, and a constant comfort when I am sad that we are apart. It is a reminder of how very much our Father loves us, and that he brings people together to complete each other in ways we did not even know we needed completion. During the course of planning our wedding, we have certainly experienced some very exciting moments and some very stressful ones. Now that we are exactly two months away today, we are really in the “short rows” (that’s country for “almost done”). One of the most special things happened this weekend and I could hardly believe it when I found out. It also really brought a new meaning to me and this verse.
My mom and I have always been close. She is the sweetest, most loving and selfless person you will ever meet. I can say that with all certainty now, only because the one other person in this world who could rival her ability to love and be selfless was my MaMa, her mother, who passed away almost 7 years ago. MaMa was definitely the sweetest person I knew, besides my mom. Every single ounce of goodness, love and selflessness I have, I attribute to these two women. I think I am a perfect mix of “toughness” from my dad and “sweetness” from my mom. I was definitely raised by three people when I was young, my mom, my dad and MaMa. My MaMa was the person who gave me my first bath. She was the one who always had a sausage patty on a piece of white bread waiting for us before school every morning (she lived only four houses down from us). We went to her house after school, and stayed with her every summer. Mom, MaMa, my brother Michael and me would go to Nahunta Pork Center every Saturday morning to buy meat (we are so country around here). She was constantly there for every soccer game, tennis match, awards banquet, everything we ever did she was there. So it is easy to understand that her passing was very difficult on all of us. However, it didn’t really “hit me” until much later on. When I was in 10th grade, MaMa suffered a mini heart attack that left her unable to live on her own. She came to live with us. I was very unhappy about this. Just a few months before she came to stay with us, my brother left for college and I was finally the only child and had my OWN BATHROOM. It was all my 16 year-old self cared about. So having your very elderly, fragile grandmother move in with you at that age was unbearable to me.
Slowly we watched MaMa deteriorate. She became more and more frail and sick and there was nothing any of us could do. My final semester of high school I was taken out of school one day because MaMa had been hospitalized. She suffered from a stroke and was left very weak. She had to be moved to a rest home. The rest home was in Smithfield, and my mother went to see her nearly every day she was there. She brought her things she knew she couldn’t use. She went religiously to see her, usually all by herself. My dad and I always made excuses not to go, and Michael was still in college when this happened. Regardless, none of us could stand going to see MaMa like that. She wasn’t the MaMa we knew growing up, but my mom was the only one who understood how much she still needed us. The rest of us were too busy being so selfish to visit the most selfless woman we knew.
She passed away shortly after I graduated from high school, and just a few weeks before my brother’s wedding. I had no idea how selfish I had truly been until the years to come. I started having dreams about MaMa on a regular basis. She consumed my thoughts, and I was consumed with guilt. Finally, I started to realize that she was not in my thoughts to burden me with guilt, but to grant me peace about what happened when she died and help me to move past the guilt and into acceptance. I am so thankful she has been a constant reminder of goodness and love in my life, even though she is not physically present anymore. Instead of thinking back in pain of how I treated her at the end, I started to use the opportunities in front of me to be a light in other’s lives. Every time an elderly person came to the pharmacy where I worked in college, I made certain to go out of my way to listen to them and help them as much as I could. Eventually, every shift I worked the pharmacists and techs would transfer any and all calls from elderly people to me, because they knew the patience and care I would take with them. I was so happy to help, and I loved seeing them happy in return. Anytime someone made the comment “I don’t know how you have so much patience with them” I would always respond “Because someone once had the patience for my grandmother.”
The verse above took on an even greater meaning for me this past weekend. While I was down in Savannah visiting the Tar Heel with Mama Kay and Timmy Buffet, my mom was running a few errands around home getting ready for the bridal shower she is hosting for us. I stopped by my parent’s house on the way home from Savannah late Monday night, and mom was excited to share some news with me. She was showing me the napkins she ordered for the shower, and told me I would never guess what happened at the florist when she went to order my corsage and centerpiece flower. She went to a local florist, the same one she and MaMa have used for years. After ordering the flowers, she went to pay for them and the owner of the shop told her not to worry about payment. He remembered that MaMa had a credit on her account, after all these years. I sat in shock as mom told me that MaMa bought the flowers for my bridal shower. It was one of the greatest reminders I’ve had in a long time that love transcends all things, and that nothing can keep our Heavenly Father from providing us with gifts from above every single day.