At the end of January my family held a memorial service to honor and remember her. It was intimate, private, and surreal. It was weird to see my mother in this position. It forced the thoughts of... "what about when it's my turn to say goodbye to my parents?" I am still rejecting that one. It is weird to say, but I was proud of my mom. She organized the service, picked out flowers, arranged a gift for the grandchildren, scheduled a friend to sing and play music, and had a friend of the family share The Word. She paid attention to detail, and found what would have suited her mother.
During the service the grandchildren were given the opportunity to share memories or stories of times with grandma. I learned new things about her, like she was once a fitness instructor and was asked to be filmed in a television commercial to promote the new gym. She was a bank teller for many years and was held up at gun point several times but still loved her job! Other stories made us laugh: she used to score our dives off of the diving board, liked to play practical jokes, and was often seen with a cigarrette in one hand and a glass of chocolate milk in another...
I feel lucky. As a child of working parents, I got to spend several summers with my grandma. We would play cards, watch old movies, and go to the pool. It was mentioned in her service several times that she was afraid of heights- but would go on roller coasters with her grandchildren and fly in planes. She was afraid to swim- but loved to take her grandchildren to a pool or lake. As I was listening to the stories and memories of her, it struck me: Courage. She had so much of it.
During our summers together, we would often go to the pool. One year, she even let me attempt to teach her to swim! She must have seen the teacher in me, even then.
Again, it pressed on me harder: Courage. She didn't let her fears stop her. She rode roller coasters, flew in airplanes, went on cruises, swam with her grandchildren. The list probably goes on. All this time, a model of courage was in front of me. I hadn't stopped to realize, learn, appreciate.
I am grateful for the chance now. She may not be with me, but I can take her spirit and her example forward. It can guide me, inspire me, and encourage me.
I don't have to be afraid of that change. The new relationship doesn't have to paralyze me with fear. I don't need to worry about what job I will have in the future, or where I will live.
Board the coaster. Plug your nose and get in. Take Courage. Keep the Courage.
(Alice Rae Whitehead and Lawrence Paul Whitehead)