The matriarch of my family, Mary Frances White Bartley Kierepka, has moved on from this world, and I still see her each and every day. Over the last several weeks since her passing, the smallest things remind me of my beautiful grandmother. Although I have come to realize that I mention her more than once a day, people have told me that I have always done that. Maybe I just notice it more now because she has stayed continually on my mind. I will truly miss the influence that she has always had on both my boys and me.
When I see Grandma, it is in the little things that many people take for granted in their daily lives. However, she is the one that taught me those little things are the most important things that you will always have. So, it is those little things that I will never let go of.
I see her when I see my youngest son dance a silly dance with me as the stereo blares. My grandmother taught me to Jitterbug and Swing Dance at a young age. I always looked forward to overnight stays where the TV was often turned off and the music danced through the air. Children’s laughter could be heard through the halls of the house, as Grandma grabbed a tiny hand and twirled her babies around. I have had the opportunity to hold on to some of those precious memories with my children due to modern technology, and they are now some of my most prized possessions.
I see her in my oldest son as he tames the feral kittens that live in our neighborhood. I think that the people of Haskell, Texas just knew that if they dropped a kitten off in front of Grandma’s house, it would be taken care of. As the years passed, more and more kittens were born, and my grandmother made sure they had a warm place to sleep and food in their bellies. Over my lifetime, I watched my grandma handle the wildest of kittens, who were completely calm when she neared. They did not bite or scratch. They surrounded her just for that moment of a warm embrace or a gentle back rub.
I see her in the wild flowers that grow almost all seasons in Texas. Grandma had the most wonderful green thumb. She could take a limp plant that was barely clinging to life and nurse it back to health. She would pinch off a bit of a wild ivy to grow in her garden, and every single one of her plants would thrive. She had the sweetest most unique flavored tomatoes that grew in her garden, and I have yet to find a tomato that I loved as much as the ones that I would spend my days with her harvesting. What most of us saw as weeds, she saw as a valuable staple and refused to cut down. Whether it was dandelion greens, lambs quarter, prickly pear, or wild garlic, it was all used by her. She taught my children that they could live off of the vegetation of the land if they just new what to look for.
I see her in the birds that most people find annoying and a nuisance. The memories of her special bird feeders, and the boys begging her to let them feed the birds flood my mind. This was something that they loved to do with her every time that that visited. Even though they often overfilled the feeders and ended up spilling more seed on the ground than in the feeders, she indulged them in that little pleasure. She taught all of us that nature is a thing to be treasured and enjoyed. We loved the visits to her home where we could take in the solitude and smell the crisp fresh air. It was a place away from the blaring lights and noisy city that we have come accustomed to. So now, when I see a Blue Jay or a Cardinal, those feelings of peace and contentment wash over me, and my heart is filled with joy.
I hear her in the words that I speak to my children when they are upset with one another. “Things can be replaced, people cannot.” These words of wisdom are words that I have come to live by, and I have tried to teach my children to live by. I know that they have heard her when I see them give up what little they have to make sure that those less fortunate have more. I know that they have been influenced by her when their hearts break for people that they do not even know. When life becomes tough and overwhelming, I remind myself, “God only gives you what you can handle.” Those words are the words that got me through raising a son with autism. In my self-pity, I would remind myself that if my widowed grandmother could raise three girls and a disabled son on her own, I definitely could do it with my husband’s help. I have learned from her not to sweat the little things, and I have taught my boys, “You can handle this,” because I know that they can.
Although her words of wisdom hang in my mind, and I carry so much of her with me; I still wish I had more time with her. I wish for that moment when she became overjoyed and filled the room with laughter, and the thought that I will never hear that again breaks my heart. I wish for those peaceful mornings filled with the smell of biscuits cooking in the oven and the smell of International Delights filling the air. I wish to hold her once again, my arms wrapped tightly round her as the smell of rose scented perfume dances about. I wish for one moment to do all of the things that I used to do with her, but I know in my heart that moment will not come, and the sorrow weighs down my soul, and the tears sting my eyes. But, I can handle this.
Although my precious grandma has moved on from this world, through the little things, joy, compassion, nature, and wisdom, I do feel her presence enveloping me every single day.