a personal post : On Love and Legacy

Grow old along with meThe best is yet to be When our time has come We will be as one God bless our love God bless our love

Grow old along with me Two branches of one tree Face the setting sun When the day is done God bless our love God bless our love

Grow Old With Me - John Lennon

mamawpapaw 001 copy

I recently experienced, for the first time in my life, losing someone very dear to me. My sweet Mamaw, Frankie, passed away at the end of November and this post has been sitting in my mind for some time since then. Besides my parents and their marriage of 30 years, my grandparents would be the most influential couple in my life. Their marriage of 62 years is such a testament of their love.

They, Howard and Frankie, grew up in a small town in rural western North Carolina, 'out over yonder, in the holler' as they would call it. His family originated from mainly Germany and hers from Ireland, as well as other parts of Europe. They settled in the Blue Ridge hills and became farmers, walked to school, made their own clothes, lived a very modest life off the land. He was friends with her brother and they would walk with each other up and down the mountain's dirt road to her house up in the cove from school or church. They went through high school together, fell in love, and eloped on September 15, 1951 at 18 years old. They lived a wonderful life in the same community, among their family and grew old with their friends from their childhood in that same small town.

I did not know this side of them, I only know what they have told me of times back then, and from spending hours with them looking over their old photos from their life together. My Mamaw to me was the most amazing cook, my memories of her are standing in her kitchen covered in flour making homemade buttermilk biscuits with her, watching her can all of her home grown vegetables and mouth watering jelly, snapping and stringing green beans with her at the kitchen table, listening to her and my grandpa sing old gospel hymns at church in their quartet singing group or with their friends around the piano in their living room, playing gin rummy with her late at night, and countless hugs, always making you feel loved, and endless praise. She was the best, they are the best, and part of the greatest generation. The one thing that always stood out to me though, is the way she and my grandpa were always in positive moods, always friendly, modest, gentle and kind hearted, so unbelievably strong in their faith, and always kept family first. My grandfather has worked and farmed every day in his life, unless it's Sunday- he is the strongest, most hardworking, humble soul and has made many sacrifices for his family through the years, which has eventually led me to where I am now in my life. I am so grateful for these memories.

When Conor and I were about to be married, I asked them what their advice was for a successful marriage, they told me: "Love one another unconditionally and always keep God first". About 5 years ago, my Mamaw was diagnosed with Primary Lateral Sclerosis- it is a progressive, degenerative disease that affects the motor neurons and all of your extremities and muscles. She lost feeling in her feet and legs first, and eventually it took over her entire body. Until the day she died, she could still speak and thankfully, she did not have to endure being stuck in her body with her mind still coherent and ultimately, starving to death. Throughout her entire sickness, she took it with stride, never complained, and cherished what time she had with loved ones. My grandpa, a man who had never been grocery shopping, never cooked a meal in his life, never washed a load of laundry, had been taken care of by her since 18, learned all of these new things because that is what life threw him. He handled it so well, took care of her every single day, washed her face, fed her, bathed her, carried her, made her laugh, put her to bed - showed the kind of love that 62 years of marriage had taught him. They experienced love in it's rawest form, when everything was bad, yet found comfort in one another. After a week of complications, after she got to say her goodbyes to everyone that loved her so dearly, she passed away peacefully with my grandpa by her side.

I am so grateful I was able to witness this kind of love in my lifetime. It teaches me what life is about - moments - good, bad, funny, messy, beautiful, and the person you choose to spend those with. I want that kind of love, to experience it in all its forms, alongside the man I've chosen to spend all the days of my life with.

It's amazing to plan a wedding, to create all the little details that tell a story of two people and their love, and I am so blessed to have the incredible job that I do - however, if I could lend any future married couples a piece of advice, it would be that after it's all said and done, what matters the most is the person you're walking down the aisle to, the vows and promises that will be made, and the life you will build together afterwards.

In our day-to-day lives, it's so easy to get caught up in all the curveballs life throws at us- in the thick of work, stressed beyond belief, having petty disagreements and disappointments, worrying about housework that needs to be done, experiencing heartache, trying to raise children, etc. - try to remember life is so short, don't forget to hug you momma's neck (or dad's), and tell your family you love them. Love is what makes it all worthwhile.