Another angel. These past two years have been a season of goodbyes for my family and, today, we felt the deep loss of our last remaining grandparent - Joy. She will be missed dearly.
Nannie blessed our lives in so many ways. She had a heart for the lonely, the elderly, the poor, and the mentally disabled. Everyone held value and deserved love - especially the “least of these”. The great majority of her life was spent serving others and caring for people in her home. It was Nannie who first introduced my parents to Edgar, a 52 year old man with Down syndrome living in a group home. She told us she found the perfect match for our family - and she was right. My parents brought Edgar in to live with us and he became an integral part of the family immediately. I’ll be forever grateful to Nannie for our Eddie.
Nannie was a hard worker - and she chose to make the work fun. There were always chores to do, so why not do them while singing or working together? Some of my favorite memories are spending time with her and my 5 aunties and momma in the kitchen, or weeding with them in the yard. The laughter was endless and the talk was always so fun.
Nannie loved her husband, children, children in-law, Steve (a gentleman she cared for like a son until her health declined recently), grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Family was everything and she frequently gathered all six kids, spouses, and many grandchildren under one roof. When that became too much, family reunions and Thanksgiving dinners were moved to the church - where our entire family would fill the gym. At dinner time, I loved watching her try to sweetly bring us all to attention before losing patience with the chaos and raising her voice to a soft yell - “Hey, you kids!” One of my uncles would follow her with a shrill whistle. Immediately, the family matriarch would have a captive audience. Nannie and Pappie would stand together, eyes misting up as they looked over the many people they loved. She’d often give a small speech about how grateful she was we could all be together and how much she loved us. Pappie would follow with a humble prayer of gratitude before the food. His usually jovial voice would quiver with emotion. They loved their family fiercely. Those are moments I treasure.
Nannie loved to give. Her white elephant parties were epic. Each year she’d quietly go about collecting enough presents for every member of the family. Every. Member. Then she’d wrap it in the same red wrapping paper she’d had since the earth was made, and pile them up for all to see when we came together at the holidays. I literally never saw her wrap a present in anything else. Somewhere in her home is a magical, never-ending roll of the stuff. I swear the rules for stealing changed every time, but we always worked it out in the end.
Nannie was talented. Her preferred medium was stained glass and she made everything from mirrors and lampshades to decorations and windows. Really, though, I think she dabbled in every creative venture known to mankind. There were elaborate gingerbread houses at Christmas with frosting icicles and unbelievable detail, and handmade decorations for each holiday. She also loved to sing and had such a sweet cadence to her voice. We’d wake in the mornings to bouncy, almost staccato renditions of, “Good Morning Merry Sunshine”. “Mairsy Doats” (“Mares Eat Oats”) is another I remember her teaching me as a child.
Nannie loved those who came before. She was determined to teach us our family history, challenged me to memorize poetry about the past, and delighted in telling us tales about our ancestors. I would sit with her and her sisters as a girl and listen to their stories of growing up. We would take gloves and kitchen knives to family plots and weed around the stones, then edge around their bases as she taught us about them. No one would be forgotten. Not even a second cousin twice removed.
Nannie was eclectic. In her home was a cabinet of dolls, a shelf of little trinkets, a collection of painted glass shoes, a room of clowns (?!), another room of genealogy, walls of photos, stacks of National Geographic magazines, costumes, toys galore, and more. It was pretty amusing - and part of why I loved her. One of my favorite games to play was, “I Spy at Nannie’s”, where I would look around for the latest yard sale oddity lucky enough to have found its forever home. It was always such a kick in the pants to see what had caught her eye.
Like many of her generation, Nannie was a “make do-er”. If company showed up unexpectedly (and it frequently did), she welcomed it with open arms. Any food was your food and what wasn’t already prepared could be whipped up without a recipe or reheated from the freezer. I don’t know how old some of it was (Once I found a box of rice or pasta from the 70’s in her food storage and told her she should throw it away. I was denied. In an emergency we’d be grateful for the calories.), but it was always good. She kept a tidy home with beds constantly ready for loved ones, friends, friends of loved ones, friends of friends, etc. When grandchildren forgot swimsuits for the hot tub, they were given one of Pappie’s “angel robes” (undershirts) to wear so they didn’t miss out on the fun. She found a haircut she liked, one she could mostly maintain on her own, and stuck to it for life. Things were replaced when they needed to be (if that). Otherwise, very little updating or renovating was done. Needing the latest, greatest thing just wasn’t her style. She’d rather live frugally and give as needed.
Her yard, though. Nannie cared about her yard - and it was a big one. She loved nature and appreciated flowers, green grass, and trimmed hedges. Every year the family would get together for a day or two of yard work. Twenty or more of us would work together weeding, mulching, raking, planting, and more to make sure Nannie could enjoy being outside (if we didn’t do it, you’d better bet she would have done it all on her own - or had Pappie do it). There were always popsicles at the end - the classic ones you have to split down the middle to share. She made sure to grab bags with the only flavor that truly mattered - root beer.
Nannie supported us. She cared about everything from school plays to piano recitals. Even when we moved across the state, she was there for graduations, important events, and every baby blessing, funeral, or wedding under the sun. Nothing held her back from loving and supporting her family.
Nannie had a soft spot for animals and respected each creature that crossed her path. Never once did I see her kill a spider. They were always carefully trapped and let outside to live their lives in peace. She loved watching birds and many came to her breakfast window to feed throughout the day. I can’t count how many furry creatures she rescued, but they all loved her as she loved them.
My favorite memories of Nannie involve my own children. They loved their Nannie and Pappie with all their hearts and were so loved in return. She spoke with them as if they were the only ones who mattered and gave them her full attention. She remembered details about their lives and found genuine happiness in their accomplishments. Nannie held a special relationship with each child, but I especially enjoyed the bond she shared with Annie. They were two peas in a pod and had many of the same traits and interests. To watch them together was like watching old friends reconnect.
Two weeks ago, knowing time was close, we drove to Boise to say our final good byes. I thanked her, in far fewer words, for all of this and more. She held our hands and, as was her way, told us how much we meant to her. She did her best to listen through one of Annie’s stories, laughed at Levi’s haircut (he begged to go bald), was shocked by Anson’s mustache and relaxed into sleep as he tenderly held her hand.
We’re grateful to have loved and been loved by such a treasure.
Her name was Joy - and Joy is what she was.
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