Today is the ten year anniversary of my grandma’s death.
I wanted to write something about it here–to share something of her with you. I’ve been thinking on it a lot. Then I remembered several years ago, on the four year anniversary, I wrote her a letter. I searched and searched, and finally found it on my laptop.
After I read it (and pulled myself together) what I found to be so remarkable is that, other than the ages of my children, nothing has changed. Not a single word.
I’ve heard it said, “Time heals all wounds,” but I’m positive whoever said that has never lost someone their heart was bound to. Time helps. Time soothes. But healing implies the sting of their absence is forever gone, blown into oblivion by the winds of time. “Time heals all wounds” sounds great. But, respectfully, I’d like to offer . . . it’s quite possibly one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.
I believe in Heaven. I believe she’s there. I believe “it’s a better place.” But there are still days, ten years later, when I miss her so desperately that I end up in a crying heap on my bed. And I think that’s ok. It’s not pretty, but it’s real. God gets it because He gets me.
I’d like to share the letter I wrote to her six years ago . . . to give you a glimpse of her . . . to honor her. She deserves so much honor. But please know there is nothing I can say–nothing I can write–that could ever be worthy of Iva Burris. She was as special as they come–more than I ever deserved and much more than I could ever aspire to be.
That I was hers, even for a time, was a beautiful, beautiful gift from God.
It has been four years today that you left us to go hang out in Heaven. That’s so hard for me to believe. I bet for you, the time has flown by. Sometimes I think about how it must be for you, seeing your mom and dad, your brothers and sisters, friends. I always seem to end up at the same image–you sitting beside your ‘Mama’ somewhere beautiful like on the sand beside an ocean or in a field with snow falling and the two of you holding hands. I know how much you missed her. You told me so much about her. To think of the two of you together up there… it just seems like nothing could be more perfect.
There are so many things I want to tell you. Much too many to write here, but I’ll try to cover the big ones. Belle started first grade, Grandma. Can you imagine? Don’t you remember the night Matt and I tried to tell you that I was pregnant, and you just couldn’t catch on and we had to just blurt it out? Or the day she was born and she had so much hair, and it was blonde! and we just couldn’t figure out where that child came from? And remember when Matt was in Little Rock, and you came over and we dressed her up in my old baby dress and took pictures and laughed so hard at how silly she looked? When she got a little bigger she always wanted to go to “Memaw’s” and play on the bed with you and the music boxes. You’d have so many going at once that not one of their tunes was distinguishable from the others. Well, that little girl is a first grader. And she is so beautiful, Grandma. And smart. And so optimistic and such a lover of life and of people. I am so proud of her.
And Estella Dru turned five this month. Do you remember how we almost didn’t make it to the hospital for her to be born? And then she was there, and you thought she looked like our side of the family? You loved to hold her and sing to her and rock her in your blue chair. She has been a handful, Grandma. So sweet and so stubborn. There have been so many times that I’ve wanted to call you and ask you if I’m doing things right by her. I so often feel like I fail. But she is absolutely beautiful, Grandma. Her eyes got browner… as brown as yours, and she is just as precious as she was the day you left.
And, oh, Grandma. You would be so in love with Jeb. I write that with tears literally pouring out of my eyes. He is all boy, always into everything all the time, but he is so very very precious. He is incredibly sweet and loving and so handsome. When he was born, I wanted you there so much. It just didn’t seem right not to see him in your arms. It still doesn’t.
As for me, my life is so beautiful. I told you I was going to marry that boy the day I met him, didn’t I? You laughed at me until you met him, too. I am so glad you loved him so much. He continues to amaze me with his generosity and patience and love for me and the kids. I am so blessed, but you knew that.
Still, I miss you so much. Almost everyday that goes by I think of calling you, then remember I can’t. The other night I couldn’t remember how much sugar to put in chocolate gravy. It turned out awful because I had to guess. Clearly 12 tablespoons is too much. Sometimes in church we sing the old hymns that we used to when I was little, and I get a huge lump in my throat because if I close my eyes, I can hear your voice singing next to me. I want you there. I want to go dress shopping with you and laugh our heads off in the dressing room in Sears because something we picked out looks ridiculous or we’re just so tired from shopping that everything seems funny. I want to go to Taco Villa and share cheese dip and complain about how cold it always is in there. I want to sit at the kitchen table with you and talk about anything and everything while you eat your graham crackers and milk. I want to paint your fingernails with clear nail polish because obviously anything else would be much too dark and put make up on you and laugh because you CANNOT keep your eyes open for me to put mascara on your top lashes. When I feel sad and desperate and so alone, I want to sit on your lap in your recliner like the big baby I am, like I’ve done so many times, and hear you tell me that it’s ok. I want to know that you think I’m a good mom, that I’m doing a good job… that I don’t suck and this, and no ‘suck’ is NOT a bad word.
No, it’s not.
I want to crawl up in your arms and for one second, just one, feel like a daughter again… like I am beautiful and smart and good and… absolutely adored for just being me. Every insecurity I ever had, great or small, fell dead at your feet. I wish I could see myself the way you saw me. I don’t care what you say, that fifth grade school picture with my short permed hair, purple Izod shirt, and twist beads is embarrassingly ugly–still all you saw was beauty, and you showed it to everyone. I’m working on seeing it, too. I promise.
I remember one day not long before you left, we were watching Belle play and you said, “I’ve got to live long enough to see her through school.” I never for a moment doubted that you wouldn’t, but God had another plan. He called you home before I was ready to say goodbye, but you know what? I would have never been ready to let you go. And while my heart aches for you and my body hurts to be held by you, I know everything is as it should be. You are there, and I am here. And somehow He thinks I can handle that. Both of you always thought I was stronger than I feel.
Sometimes I get frustrated because people who don’t know better can’t understand what you were to me. They see ‘Grandma’ and settle on that word. They don’t know that it was you who fed me, changed my diapers, held me when I cried, played with me, made me yours when you didn’t have to, loved me/helped me through everything. It was you. My mother, my best friend, my constant, my place of shelter.
Grandma, I love you. You are so beautiful, and my heart is so full of you. Thank you for all you were to me and all you continue to be.
We have so much to catch up on. I know you’ll be waiting.