A Person Doesn’t Die IF We Keep them Alive for Our Children

I know this is a different type of blog post but I feel the need to share. You see, I had to give my grandmother’s eulogy recently. I did it because I felt the need to share with those in the church and demonstrate to my children the importance of people in everyone’s life. Below are the words I spoke about my grandmother:

One of my favorite bits of advice comes from the Dalia Lama, “Don’t loose the lesson.” You don’t have to subscribe to his beliefs and the same advice has been dished out in other words. “When one door closes, another one opens” or “making lemonade out of lemons” probably are other ways to say the same thing. Regardless of the words, I think it’s telling us that when we come in contact with difficult times or challenges that we need to turn them into situations that offer us a chance to grow. Because after all that’s what our time on Earth is all about…growing through God’s love and work and helping others grow as well. I am sure that even until a few weeks ago, grandma alligood was still doing just that. In fact I know she was because even in death, her life is still helping each of us grow IF and only IF we don’t loose the lesson or allow her influence on each of our lives die with her.

Often as people with very busy schedules, we forget to stop long enough to tell the people around us how they impact or influence our lives. Ten years ago I learned the lesson to ALWAYS make the attempt to stop every now and then and tell those around me just how having them in my life is adding something special. Of course it took a difficult time in my life to learn this lesson. I learned it while sitting at the foot of my father’s bed, Myla lee’s son, while he fought a terminal case of cancer. It was a replay of some of the times I had spent 15 years earlier sitting and talking to my grandfather, Myla lee’s husband, while he put up the same fight. The only difference this time was I didn’t loose the lesson. I spent days and days talking to my father about how his favorite foods became my favorite foods and how his strict discipline, although I didn’t like it much as a teenage, made me a better person as an adult. And today, I tell these same stories to my four children and anyone else who will listen to me because it explains who I am and passes along memories and his influence to them. Ironically, one of my sons wants to become a veterinarian proudly wears a UGA shirt and hat for good luck every time he goes fishing even though he intends to attend Notre Dame and worships the blue and gold. Another son loves to eat pecan pie just as my father did and my daughter Madison learned to shell peanuts with my dad the day before he passed away.

I’ve spent the last ten years telling my children the same stories of influence about their great grandmother alligood. When they won’t eat lima beans or black eye peas, I tell them how I did the exact same thing at Grandma Alligood’s house when I was twelve and how I used to wait til she would get up so I could spit them into my napkin because I didn’t want to see her cry that she had made something I didn’t like. She was so intent on pleasing us with our favorite foods. I know it would only hurt feelings to know I hated those beans at the time. Now as an adult I can’t enough of good black eyed peas. When my daughter, Morgan, is making up songs on our piano I tell her stories about using my aunt Lynette’ music and trying to play songs for my grandmother while she cooked afternoon lunch. No matter how bad I sounded, she still said I was great. And finally, anyone who knows me knows I can’t even stomach looking at Okra which always brings up the pickled, boiled, Fried and Okra Pie that Grandma Alligood prepared. The best part of these memories and influences is that standing here today I can tell you I spent a lot of time sitting on Druid Hills road telling these same stories to grandma herself. I’m not sure if she could understand them or not, but I know they made the nurses laugh. I even showed her one day just where all that cheese toast I ate as a child in her kitchen has attached to my thighs and I will forever WEAR her influence on me. That’s one habit I am not sure I needed. Every thanksgiving my family has pistachio ambrosia on the table in memory of the entire alligood family (my dad, my grandfather and my grandmother) and every thanksgiving I have to explain to all the South Floridians who don’t have an appreciation for southern cookin’ what ambrosia is. I told her also how much I loved the IZODs she bought me in the 80s and how I would only wear them for special occasions because they had to last until the next year or our next shopping trip together. The pink one was always my favorite. And it always leads back to a story about grandma alligood and Meigs, Ga.

Every Christmas, I could go on and on about the influences of grandma alligood….how I would wake up extra early even as a teenager just to sit and talk at the kitchen table with her before any one else got up and that same table during college offered the same comforting conservation and even better home cooking, picking vegetables in her garden with her, writing poetry out in the field, going to Baptist Sunday school as a Catholic city girl- this actually made me the most knowledge bible verse catholic in my school. All of these stories are a footprint that she made on my life and because I LEARNED the lesson of stopping, reflecting and sharing, I was able to let her know how important she was to me. Today we all have the opportunity to celebrate her life by growing in ours. We can do this not only by sharing stories of influence but also by telling the people around us just what they mean to us. Grandma Alligood did this every single day of her life through her actions, her dedication to her family, her words, the caring notes and letters she used to write, through her prayers she said of us. To celebrate her life we should learn the lesson she was trying to teach us through hers.

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