My last remaining grandparent passed away on February 8th. Grandma B. “Tomorrow” would have been her 93rd birthday. I put tomorrow in quotes because she was a leap-year baby… born on February 29th, 1920. Technically, I guess that would have made her 23 and a quarter. (Go Grams!)
My mother gave the eulogy at her graveside service. It was beautiful… both to watch, and to hear. In those 5 minutes I saw things in my mother that I’ve never seen. Vulnerability. Sorrow. Relief. And love. A deep, deep love that only exists between a mother and daughter. I also saw strength. Strength that I always knew my mother had and strength that resides deep inside of me… because I am the product of my mother. And her mother. And what phenomenal women they are. This is what she said:
Thanks to you all for coming… I’m afraid my mother outlived a great many of her family and friends.
The best word I can use to describe my Mother is “strong.”
She was not always fortunate in her long life. But she was always strong.
When her own parents both passed away suddenly when she was four (in two separate incidences), she was taken into the Acuff family. She considered her cousins, Tea and Lea Acuff, to be her brothers – they certainly WERE her brothers in spirit. She had a strong love for them and the Acuff family to the end of her life.
Times were not easy when she was young, but it seems she always had a strong determination to be her own self.
Mom was always kind, and always willing to work hard.
She would say that marrying my Dad was the best thing that ever happened to her. She was devoted to him. She patiently awaited his return from fishing and hunting trips. She gave him strong love and strong support through the 50 years of their life together.
When my brother and I were young, she and Dad taught us right from wrong. Supported by Mom I developed my interest in art. With them I discovered my love of horses, on trail riding excursions in Gatlinburg.
Mom was fiercely independent. She stood up for herself, but she stood up even stronger for her children… when I was in grade school she learned that the Principal at Giffin Elementary had forced me to eat peas at lunch, which I hated and felt sick trying to eat. I was in tears. Mom immediately visited the Principal and told Mrs. McCauley in no uncertain terms that she was NEVER to force me to eat food again which I didn’t like!
Tiny as she was, she made a big impression.
Mom tried as hard as she could to help out my brother David through his hard times. She would have moved the world if only she had known how. She never gave up being a mother, no matter how old her children were.
Mom gave herself to everyone else, all her life. She supported her dear sister Christy, and dear Ora, and Dad’s relatives Becky and Jerry, Bud and Avril, Wallace and Ina Rose and Mamaw. She gave generously to friends, to neighbors, and to strangers who were less fortunate, even when she couldn’t afford it.
Mom unreservedly loved both her grand children, Emerson and Ezra. She enjoyed being Grandma B and holding babies again, she would have done anything for them.
My mother was strong for my father when he was taken ill, and through two hospital stays at the end. She never got over his passing, so many years before she was ready to join him again.
Mother believed there is a real heaven and a hell, and that the Bible is the word of God. After almost 93 years, she at last was ready to be released from chronic pain and suffering and to rejoin her beloved husband, and David, and Tea and Lea, and so many of her family and friends. She knew she was loved by so many. The rain clouds parted and the sun came out to receive her spirit that day, and right now, my Mother is strongly at peace.
My mother has always been good with words.
Strongly at peace. My Grandpa B passed away first of the grandparents… 20 years ago now. From the moment he left my grandmother missed him fiercely. She wanted to join him so badly, but she had my uncle to look after… plagued with mental illness and the repercussions of long-term drug abuse. She was strong for him, because she had to be. She had such a hard life at times but, it was so rich with love and family. My grandmother had very little but we always got big boxes of gifts at Christmas, and a check that I’m sure was way beyond her means. Now I understand why she collected so much stuff and gave it away as gifts. It was how she could afford to give in abundance, that which she couldn’t really afford. Toothbrushes from her dentist. Jewelry boxes from Wal-Mart. Clippings from the funny pages in the newspaper.
But when my grandmother began to succumb to the side effects of cancer and aging and could no longer manage both her and my uncle’s care alone, my mother stepped in. For years… almost as long as I can remember… my mom has been taking care of my grandmother. My grandmother refused to leave Knoxville (she was never a fan of the cold). It was also the house where she had a life with my Grandpa… and the last place they lived together before his passing. Can you blame her?
It was this that first showed me the strength of the women in my family… my grandmother, succeeding her husband more than 20 years, knowing that if there were no one else in the picture she would have gladly joined him years ago. My own mother, managing the care of an aging parent from 1,000 miles away in NH, spending hours on the phone with home healthcare nurses, meals on wheels, medicare and medicaid representatives, and in the end, providers overseeing her care at the nursing facility. You never knew what phone calls would be like with her. 9 times out of 10 they would end with my Grandma in tears over the loss she has suffered in life. Who can blame her? My Grandpa, her parents when she was a kid… even her first born child, at 4 days old. But my mother would call every holiday, and every week, just the same. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to hear your own mother say she doesn’t want to live anymore. But live she did, for twenty more years. For her children. For her grandchildren. But not for herself. At least, I don’t think so.
The strength of the women in my family is astounding. It’s subtle, and unexpected, but it’s there. I know, because I’ve felt it in the
hardest of times. When you reach a point of heartbreak or devastation so deep that you have no idea how you’re going to get through the next hour, let alone day or week or year… it’s there. It’s resilient and hearty. It’s quiet, yet echoes through every ounce of your being. It’s the strength of decades of women who come before you, who have survived hardship, loss and adversity and overcome it. All without sacrificing a single piece of who they are or who they want to be.
My role models are the women who come before me. Those who know they have lived life and given love to the greatest extent that they know how. My role model is my grandmother… Grandma B… who is now Strongly at Peace.
Adeline H. Burleson
February 29, 1920 – February 8, 2013.
“For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: It is the gift of God”