We’re going through old family photos as we prepare to celebrate my grandmother’s life this weekend. She passed away last night at 10 pm, surrounded by my mom, me, and my aunt Kristi…“her girls.” We sang to her, we held her hand, and laid our hands on her head and her heart. She went softly, gracefully, peacefully…like herself.
I came across this photograph of me as a little girl. It’s my favorite one. It looks like me, from the outfit to the expression in my eyes, to the way my body trustingly rests it’s little back on the truck of that tree. I am comfortably held In the vast arms of nature, where there is room for contemplation and curiosity. There is time for discovery and it is happening. There is love in my eyes and fascination for the unfolding of life.
I recognize my essence and my soul in this picture. Those moments are lovely, aren’t they? The ones when we feel like we meet ourselves again? I am experiencing a richly textured homecoming of sorts right now. Last week, I drove across the country with my mother from Los Angeles, my home for the past nine years. We stopped along the way in Sedona, Santa Fe, Oklahoma, Memphis, and Nashville, and arrived in Knoxville in time to spend Mother’s Day with my grandmother before she lost consciousness. As my mom and I traversed majestic red rocks, lush national forests, and dusty desert on our trip, we eventually found our senses caressed with humidity, the choice of biscuit or toast, country music, and the comforting drawl of soothing familiar voices. When we walked into her room, my Grandmama smiled and told me to snuggle up in her bed with her. She told me she had waited on me. She would say few words during those final days, but the soft sounds she managed and the warmth of her smile provided a gentle ushering into the new chapter of life which was awaiting us, a chapter without her physical presence on earth.
Living 3000 miles away from family, I learned to assert myself, and to push through the loneliness and disconnection which often arose for me in a city where you become all too familiar with your car. But, this week, I was embraced by the lineage of my grandmother’s tenderness. She learned it from her mother and passed it down to my mother, my aunt, and me. It is a subtle cord of southern female energy, and it shows up in angel biscuits, song, church, casseroles, comforting words, and a steady commitment to the solidarity of family.
Every day, I breathe through the urge to plan my life. I’m learning how to rest again in its uncertainty, like a little girl leaning against a big tree. Right now, I am in the south, with nothing to do but drink my tea, read, write, and let the imprint of my grandmother’s life rest in my heart.
Editor’s Note: This piece was originally featured on Brittany’s personal blog, Yellowbrickroad.
Photo: Personal family picture of Brittany as child