Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Legacy of Strength

My maternal grandmother Patricia Jean Turner was a woman of strength. In the years that I knew her she was a pillar of grace and intelligence and taught me how to carry myself and respect those around me. She passed away when I was a freshman in high school and I can still remember my world tumbling and crashing down around me when I found out. It was my first real exposure to death and she was someone who I loved and adored. She died due to a stroke related to a brain tumor. It was her second time facing brain cancer.

I remember before I was aware that the cancer had returned I was watching the movie Little Women in her room. The tumor was already disabling her from many things and often she would say and do things that were out of the ordinary, but the only things I can ever remember her doing during this period were those that confirmed her strength of character.

 I was sprawled out across her bed and she was going through her closet. She tried to reach for something on a high shelf and I started sensing frustration. My grandmother, who we affectionately called Bebis due to her Texan drawl trying to pronounce "babies!" when we would visit, turned around at me and told me something I have always remembered. She said, whenever you get mad or frustrated or feel like something isn't possible, just count to three and try again, you'll be able to do it. I watched as she counted and reached one last time and she got whatever she was reaching for.

It is a strange memory but one that to me reveals so much about her. The funny thing is, it's not like the counting is magical or anything, but in the counting you remember that you are capable. She was always teaching me like that, weaving in lessons and manners into every moment, reminding me to be kind to every person, to stand up for myself, to care more about quality than quantity.

She argued eloquently, dressed impeccably, laughed wholeheartedly and loved sincerely. Through her example, she showed me how to hold my head up when times are hard, not because you can't cry or grieve or be mad but to remember that with God, you are strong. She remained beautiful, kind, and consistent to what she knew to be right and true until the day she died. She passed on a legacy of strength.

My mother, where to words begin to describe the woman who has become my absolute best friend. My mother is my hero, she learned strength and grace and kindness and understanding from her mother and everyday growing up with her was a treasure. In many circumstances of my mother's life she had every reason to be angry at the trials life had given her, but through each of them I have looked back and seen that she was nothing but a beacon of light and strength to our family. She handled complicated situations with love and clarity of mind. Her strength radiates out in exuberant optimism and cheerfulness. She is the absolute best advice giver from hair colors to potty training to relationships and I am grateful that she too taught me that I am strong and can do hard things.

Over the past year I have received several times the words, "You are so strong...." What I have learned that as a mother I have a legacy of strength, a legacy of strong mothers who have gone through hard things. They have taught me that I have that strength too. That strength lies within me to access with the help of a loving, kind God. A God who believes in me and believes in every woman out there that we have the capability to be strong, in whatever form that looks like for us.

So a Happy Mother's day to all of the mothers out there who show their strength in so many moments of each day. You are strong and that strength is beautiful.

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