On Feb. 25, my grandmother, Bernice Wilson, died. She was so much more than a grandmother. When I think of the term grandmother in the traditional sense, I think of the smell of fresh-baked cookies, gray hair, a big smile and a special love only available from a grandparent. However, when I think of my grandmother, I think of so much more: an encourager, a motivator, a mother and a fighter. She was a second mother to me, someone who took me under her wing when her life should have been winding down into a series of relaxing vacations, lessened responsibilities and a happy empty nest. I entered her life as a plump, blue-eyed, blonde-haired boy when she was 62 years old, and she embraced her second round of motherhood.
I have always been especially close to my grandparents. My parents both worked civil service jobs, my dad as a police officer and my mom as a social worker, and their careers required a degree of sacrifice in their home lives. My grandparents took up the slack, keeping me daily from the time I was 6 weeks old until I went to school as a precocious 5-year-old. Their bond with me never faded, and I can remember them being at every school activity, picking me up daily from the school bus and even checking in on me when I was old enough to stay at home by myself during summer vacations.
My grandfather was a great and gentle man who died of cancer at age 90 in mid-2016. I loved him, and I looked up to his example, but I was always particularly enamored with my grandmother. She radiated a spirit of love. In her eulogy last week, the pastor called her an example of God’s shining love, and I could not agree more. She was not only my biggest fan, but she was my closest adviser and motivator.
My grandmother was not a perfect woman, but in my eyes, she was as close to perfection as someone could be. Like me, she struggled throughout her life with anxiety and depression, and she understood those unique struggles in my life more than anyone else. She encouraged me to keep going, to fight the negative voices in my head and to always look beyond the present to see a bright future. I’ll never understand why I had such a unique relationship with her, or why she was so drawn to me, but I feel like God knew I would need her, and He knew she needed me. I hope that I made her proud, and I hope to live a life that is modeled after the beautiful examples set by my grandparents.
The past two-and-a-half years since my grandfather’s death were brutal to Grandma. They were married 71 years, and after his death, she was never the same. My beautiful, loving grandmother deteriorated in a slow fashion, and I had this time to grieve for her and for my grandfather. A few weeks ago, I made the decision to no longer physically go see her; it was too painful, and I knew she was no longer there, just a semblance of her strong mind left in a tired body. When she passed away in the early morning hours of a rainy Monday, I was left with a sense of relief that she was no longer suffering and was reunited with my grandfather.
During the week that followed, I did not exhibit any outward signs of grief, which left me feeling cold and uncaring. It took me writing my feelings out to realize I had already experienced four stages of grief and was now in the final phase: acceptance.
During the period between my grandfather’s death and my grandmother’s, I often raged at God, wondering why He would keep her here when she longed to again be with my grandfather. I now believe God kept her here to do what she had always done: to care for me. God knew I needed a chance to grieve for them both, even in advance, and He knew her life mission wasn’t yet complete. He knew I needed a few more years of her touch, her love, her encouragement, and the opportunity to grieve over an extended period.
The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh; blessed be the name of the Lord.
I will be fine, and I will always carry the wonderful memories of two beautiful servants of God in my heart and in my mind. Their examples have given me a map to follow throughout my life, and I am blessed.
Joshua Wilson is a marketer and public relater living in Hattiesburg. He’d love to hear about your special grandparents, too; write him at email@example.com. For more information about Joshua, visit www.jowil.media.