When I was a little girl, I would stay overnight with my great-grandma, or Mama, both out on the farm and once she moved in town. She would sleep in bed with me, and we would giggle and tell stories way past bedtime. And we would always say our bedtime prayers ending with this one:
“Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
And if I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.”
We would say our “I love yous” and “Good nights” a few times and she would kiss, and then probably start giggling and telling stories again, usually until I crashed.
Our family mourns this week as Mama, who was a young 97 years old, prayed the Lord her soul to take yesterday morning.
I learned so much from her, and I’m sure that was her intention. I mean, she was already in her 70s when I was born. She’d already lived quite a life before I came along, and because of that, she instilled some pretty major life lessons and character traits in me.
And because one of those lessons I’ve learned from her was to be selfless, I thought I’d share her advice with you all…
For my bridal shower three and a half years ago, everyone was supposed to offer marriage advice. Here is what she wrote:
“Always share your joys with one another. Celebrate your birthdays and anniversaries together.
Sometimes, go for a vacation to Branson. Say you’re sorry whether you mean it or not.”
The last time Matt and I saw her a couple weeks ago in the nursing home, she said a few things I’ve been thinking about since.
- “Just take it one day at a time. We sure can’t take it two at a time!” I NEEDED to hear that at that moment, and now.
- “I’ll get home soon. I’ve got things I need to do.” This has a different meaning to me now. She must have need to start serving as our guardian angel.
- “The days go so much faster when we’re busier. I can’t imagine not staying busy all the time.” I think every time in recent memory that I’ve gone to visit her, she’s talked about the days always going faster than they used. So fast, she made it to 97 in the blink of an eye, apparently.
Mama, or Miss Martena as many people called her, had the most effortlessly positive outlook on life. I never heard her speak a bad word about anyone. She always found the bright side in every situation. She took sorrows and turned them into joys. She sent cards and called family and friends to keep up with their lives every day. Her life was a shining example of God’s most beautiful creations.
When I walked into a room, her face lit up, and mine did too. Her laugh was contagious and she had the “gift to gab” with anyone. We’d sit in the kitchen and have some lemonade or tang or go to the living room, where the TV was never on. We’d talk about what and how everyone else in the family was doing, what we’d been up to, and old stories about goofy things I did with her when I was little.
She gave the best hugs and kisses. I hear the “mmmh love you” as she gave a tight squeeze. But not before she sent us with cake mix cookies, orange slices, angel food cake or anything she could find to wrap up in plastic wrap and put in a walmart sack.
When we left her house, she’s stand in the door and wave before we pulled away. And we smiled as we drove away, with a warm fuzzy feeling and a renewed outlook on our day.
She’s had her fair share of health problems over the last few years, but she always requested she have her makeup and nice clothes with her. It was important to her to get up, be productive and look nice. She knew that she would feel better if she looked top-notch. She would recover quickly, with her famous words, “I’ve got to get home. I’ve got things to do.”
Mama was so full of love and happiness that she had the ability to make boxed mashed potatoes, Tang and cake mix cookies taste better than anything made from scratch.
She loved keeping busy. In fact, she’d already started on everyone’s Christmas gifts – usually scratchers, hot chocolate, gloves, pencils, notebooks, and another something special. She made her whole life about serving her loved ones.
Miss Martena was a prime example of what good clean living, without negative gossip and the noise of the material world, really is possible. I never remember seeing her jealous or angry, and I remind myself quite frequently that she was the person I hope to become and to think more like her.
She loved bingo, rummy and dominoes, and I often had to accuse her of making up her own rules just so she could win. I remember stopping into see her at the farm when we’d go check cows on Sunday afternoon. Once she moved to town, I’d go to her house in between school and evening events to visit and help her with things. But through all of those little moments, she shaped the person I’ve become and hope to grow into.
There’s never enough time with the ones you love. Even 97 years wasn’t enough. But then again, Mama would tell me that we’re blessed to have had each other for as long as we did. She’d tell me that she it was her time to do God’s work in Heaven now. And in 75 years (hey, I have to aim as high as she did!) I hope to have eternity with her too.
In that same bedroom where we’d giggle ourselves to sleep was a framed sign with “Footprints in the Sand” on it. It’s because of her that I have that same saying in my home.
“The Lord replied ‘The times when you saw only one set of footprints in the sand, it was then that I carried you.”
I know that Mama is helping God carry me through this. She knows how to comfort me and love me, no matter where she is.
“mmh, love you,” Mama. Here’s my one last tight squeeze. I’m waving out the window as you fly away.