My grandmother’s treasure trove
Today being Mother’s day, I want to honor my grandmother, Gladys Lucas. She was a woman who throughout the course of her life was a mother to many. She raised her five children through the days of her youth. In her older years, she raised her granddaughter, Megan, with every ounce if not more of a mother’s undying love. My own memories dance with reflected warmth as I was blessed to have a period of her life that seemed to be solely mine.
The way she loved me was purely without condition. This kind of love was something I would learn later in my life was the exception, not the rule. This was my blessing, the love of a second mother. Within the magic place of our imaginations, we were not limited by anyone else’s reality. As Grandma’s stories spun to life, I knew no questions were off limits. My grandmother’s treasure trove was a gift of life’s values and lessons. These golden words would one day give my life meaning and direction.
How grand were her intricately web spun tales!
As a child I was always fascinated by the beautiful woman in the perfectly dusted frame that sat atop Grandma’s bureau. I needed to know this woman’s story, embrace the tale of her life’s pain. Grandma shared with me that her sister Mildred had passed away from the anguish of a broken heart. Poor sweet Mildred’s joy at giving birth to her child gave way to the living nightmare of being handed that child’s dead body. Mildred had shared her heart with her child, so wholly and completely. The incredible despair was too heavy a burden for the strength Mildred had left in her own heart.
“Grandma, why would the death of her baby cause your sister to die, too?” I asked curiously.
Grandma’s face would become serious and she would say, “Well, Heather, this is simply the love of a mother! When you were forming inside your mother’s womb, well, she gave to you a piece of her own heart. When you are happy she smiles, when you are hurt, she feels your pain. Beating in your chest, is your mother’s heart, it’s there she will always remain.”
“Grandma! Did your sister die from all of her child’s pain?” I exclaimed, horrified at that thought.
“Oh, no! Her baby didn’t suffer!” Grandma would say matter-of-factly. “All of her love died when she lost her baby. Mildred gave up because the pain was more than she could bear. This is what it means to be a mother. A piece of your heart lives on in your child. You can’t shield yourself from pain. You cannot guard that piece of your heart again. It is the most sacrificial gift all. One day when you become a mother, I promise, this sacrifice will never be in vain.”
On this first Mother’s Day since my sweet grandmother passed away, I wanted to share a bit of Grandma’s incredible treasure trove. When I became a mother and the mystery was over, I really understood what Mildred had felt. The pieces of my heart that live in my children often hurt and frighten me to death! There are other times when my shared heart brings me endless measures of unadulterated joy! Grandma was right — it was never, no matter what, not once, in vain. I have never regretted giving those pieces off my heart away.
The day before Grandma passed, we were able to say, “See you later.” She said, “I wish I could have done more.” With tears in my eyes, I replied, “You loved me!” I saw her eyes twinkle at me for the grand last time… Ohhh! Yes, Heather Lee, I always loved you so much. That single moment is etched like a beautiful tattoo on my soul. Grandma’s body stopped living, but her heart never stopped beating. There, all around me, I was encompassed in a hug of my grandmother’s love. A piece of her heart she gave away, to each one in the room, that was so packed you couldn’t move. As I caught Grandma’s twinkle, I realized, her body would perish, but her heart will never die.
In our hearts, Gladys Lucas will always live on, not just because we will miss her, but simply because our hearts belonged to her all along.
Happy Mother’s Day to my beautiful angel grandmother, my own heart-giving mother, and to all women who have given a piece of their heart to another!