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Saturday, June 7, 2008
the greatest person i've ever known
The greatest person I've ever known personally was imperfect.
I was recently reminded that my grandmother passed away just a year ago. She played a large role in my life - especially growing up - and still has an influence over me now. Knowing the lasting effect she has on me I could confidently state that she will always have an influence on me and my choices - maybe even more so now that she has passed.
My grandmother raised me from age seven to nineteen. I was taken from my parents in 1986 one morning and after two unsuccessful temporary foster homes - I went to live with her and my grandfather. My grandfather played a role in my life that I only came to understand and appreciate later after he died...but my grandmother and I have a deep connection - a friendship that started long before I knew her on Earth, has been through hell and back and will last through eternity.
A little bit about her...
She was born fourth of eleven children into a prominent LDS family - the daughter of a well-known Stake President and Patriarch. By 15 she was married and by 17 she became a mother. She divorced and married again - having a total of seven children from both marriages. Later, she became involved with the LDS Church's Indian Affairs program for seventeen years. She "adopted" a couple of Navajo exchange students for about ten years - one of which I know and call "Aunt" Marie.
Fast forward a few years later after sending her youngest child out of the house to when my family broke into fragments. My grandmother did what she could to put the pieces back together. She raised seven of the ten children in my family - meaning she raised sixteen children over a span of 60 years! I was a handful in and of myself - so 15 other children to raise must not have been as fun as it sounds!
My grandmother and I had our battles but we knew we loved each other. She reminded me often that she was the only best friend I had because no one else would put up with my crap like she did - she was right! She would get so mad at me for my poor choices, temper tantrums, rebellion and defiance...in return I would become livid over things she would say or ways that she would act. No matter what - though - we loved each other.
She was and still is a remarkable and amazing person. She would never admit that she had a racism problem - but, after our many arguments she began adjusting her thinking - my cousin got married to a black guy and she eventually accepted him into the family and supported my cousin's choice - my grandmother grew to love the guy.
Another example of how amazing she is was when my mother was released from prison and revealed to my grandmother that she has AIDS - my grandmother really didn't want too much to do with her - but eventually with my help - she came around to love her, support her rebaptism and not be afraid of her disease. My grandmother was somewhat bitter against my mother who abandoned her children, but before she died she forgave her and made peace with her daughter.
My grandmother and I have had some serious bonding experiences. Years ago I confessed to her and my Bishop of my struggle with addiction and same gender attraction. She was mortified; there was a period of time we didn't talk and she almost disowned me, but we came back to our senses and made a truce.
Later the same year my mother was released from prison I found out that I am HIV positive. She was so supportive and loving but also really scared for me - she didn't know what she could do to make things better. One day I got a box in the mail and in it was a knitted cap and scarf. I had told her that it was cold and I was afraid to get sick - so she immediately knitted me a cap and scarf. To other people it was just some yarn - to me it was probably the most beautiful and meaningful gift I have ever received. It was not the first time she gave me the gift of life. She saved me from an abusive home, she saved me from my own destructive behavior and path and she did the one thing she knew she could do for a scared and lonely grandson at that time - keep him healthy and warm with a cap and scarf.
So, a year later I am missing the greatest person I've ever known. Despite her faults, weaknesses, imperfections galore - she tried her best to keep me both physically and spiritually alive and I could never thank her enough for her steady testimony of God and his gospel and just being my mom when I needed one the most.
Never take for granted the people in your life who are willing to go through hell and back with you or even for you - just so you won't be lost or alone!
I know I do take people for granted too often - but if I call you my friend - you should know that I love and appreciate you - but you'll never be as great as my grandma :D
This is the song I sang at her funeral
Mama by Il Divo
(one of her favorite groups - the video is so beautiful http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwaVMP6tphA)
Mama thank you for who I am
Thank you for all the things I'm not
Forgive me for the words unsaid
For the times
Mama remember all my life
You showed me love,You sacrificed
Think of those young and early days
How I've changed
along the way
And I know you believed
And I know you had dreams
And I'm sorry it took all this time to see
That I am where I am because of your truth
I miss you, I miss you
Mama forgive the times you cried
Forgive me for not making right
All of the storms I may have caused
And I've been wrong
Dry your eyes
Mama I hope this makes you smile
I hope you're happy with my life
At peace with every choice I made
How I've changed
Along the way
And I know you believed in all of my dreams
And I owe it all to you, Mama
You've been caught Jey Walking!