Fayetteville, N.C. — Last week, we said goodbye to my husband’s grandmother. At 91 years old, we knew Gammy wouldn’t live forever, but it was still heartbreaking to know that we would never see her sweet smile again on earth.
My children took the loss hard. Even though watching them grieve has been gut-wrenching, I’ve been comforted when I’ve thought about how lucky they are that Gammy will never be just a face in an old photograph, or some mythical character from family anecdotes. They will know and remember for themselves the warm smile, the throaty laugh and the sweetest of hugs. How fortunate they are to have had her in their lives, even briefly.
I’m taking memories with me, too, of a woman wholly representative of an era that is fading fast. Gammy, or Evelyn Joyner, as the world knew her, was as ambitious in her career as any woman before or since — the only difference being, Gammy’s job was in the home.
Now, of course I realize plenty of women these days are stay-at-home mothers who spend their time caring for their families instead of competing in the workforce. I myself am lucky enough to work from home, allowing me hands-on time with my children as much as possible.
But women of Gammy’s time were just a different breed. And Gammy herself was at the top of her field. We’re talking three meals a day made from scratch, many of the ingredients coming from her own garden. Clothes sewn for her four children by her own hand. Caretaker to not only her own brood but to various relatives in need of hospice.
And, if those things weren’t enough, Gammy found the time to minister to others in her church, dote on her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and tend to one of the most beautiful yards of flowers in Fayetteville.
She never went to anyone’s house without a gift she’d made herself (my favorites were always the sweet treats which easily belonged on a baker’s shelf), she never turned away a stray animal in need of TLC, and she played a wicked game of rummy (she may have been a Gammy, but she was a shark when it came to cards).
I catalogue all of these wonderful attributes, and I realize how very fortunate I am to have known her as well. Yes, I love my work and I really wouldn’t trade it for anything. But remembering Gammy and how she lived her life makes me want to be a better mother, a better homemaker for my family and a better friend to the world. And if after I’m gone, thoughts of me evoke feelings of warmth, love and comfort for my family?
Then I can think of no greater measure of success.
Sleep well, Gammy. We love you.
Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.