Today is my Grandmother’s birthday. She would have been 98 years old if cancer had not robbed her of more years with us. I am privileged to share her name, Sara. Everyone called her Sally. I called her Grandmama. There was nothing complicated about her. She loved completely. She had mastered the art of choosing joy over happiness. Never has there been a sweeter, purer person. She was wholly unspoiled by life’s circumstances. At least, that’s how I remember her.
I pause my outpouring of memories and think hard to come up with some negative attribute of Grandmama, some weakness of character, which surfaced when she was tired or overwhelmed. Nothing. Even in dying, she lived fully.
“Sally, looks like your skin is more yellow than the last time I saw you,” the kind pastor said as he sat down on the chair beside her hospital bed.
She held up a frail, wrinkled arm, spotted with the years of exposure to the sun, as she tended to her rose bushes with time and attention. She looked as if the strange color of her skin had never occurred to her, which it probably had not, so wholly was her focus on others.
After a slight pause she spoke with words, which sounded like a tinkling of a small bell. “Well,if the good Lord wants me yellow, I guess I will be yellow, “ she said with a twinkle in her eye.
Acceptance. That is what it was. That is what defined Grandmama. She accepted herself, her circumstances, and others, just as they were. And even if common sense told her they were not perfect, she chose to believe otherwise. Her brilliant roses, which she produced in such abundance, truly told the story of the outlook of her life.
“I can complain because my rose bushes have thorns, or I can rejoice because my thorn bushes have roses. I choose to rejoice.” Grandmama spoke this wisdom to all of her grandchildren as we knelt in the dirt, pruning and tilling the soil beneath her precious plants.