JUANITA GAMBRELL FLOYD: Sometimes even the memories can’t flow with meaning

Mother Teresa said, “Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is beauty, admire it. Life is a dream, realize it. Life is a challenge, meet it. Life is a duty, complete it. Life is a game, play it. Life is a promise, fulfill it. Life is sorrow, overcome it.

“Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it. Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is luck, make it. Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
“Life is life, fight for it.”

One Sunday evening, my mother’s only living sibling, Aunt Leona, and her daughter Hazel, came to visit my Mama. Because Aunt Leona is now legally blind, she had to be led in by her daughter. We laughed and caught up on some of the events happening in the community and family. Before leaving, Aunt Leona said, “Take me over to Bern (a name she has always called Mama), I want to hold her hand – I just want to touch my sister’s hand. We have been together a long time.” Her words reminded me of what Winnie the Pooh said to Tigger, “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember… the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”

Tears cascaded down my eyes and my heart ached as I watched my Aunt Leona (age 90) reach for Mama’s hand (age 88). She said, “Bern, squeeze my hand.” Mama tried to, but could only hold her hand for a moment. Aunt Leona emotionally said, “I love you, Bern.” Because of the strokes Mama has had her mental capacity is no longer the same and she didn’t even realize the significance of her only living sibling needing to touch her hand.

Memories flooded my mind as I thought about them in the earlier years, how I was told the siblings walked together for miles and miles and rode wagons so they could go to a one room school,– yet they could only attain an 8th grade education; how they married men from the Red Hill community over 70 years ago (both deceased) and became single parents; how they picked cotton to support their families; how they were both head ushers and supported the church; how Aunt Leona wrote and quoted poems (still able to); how Mama modeled hats and dresses in the Rural Development contests and won; how they raised and taught their children to excel; how they were concerned about our community and worked faithfully to improve it and participated in every event – picnics, baseball games, etc.; how they saw each other every day or called. Yet, at this stage of their lives, because of Mama’s mental condition and Aunt Leona’s blindness; whatever they shared as siblings is no more; the good times – no more; the bad times – no more; secrets shared – no more; the powerful words of wisdom to their children – no more; the ability to see each other or hold a normal conversation – no more.

I then thought about my life. What impacts have I made with my life? I thought about my own siblings, children and friends. I wondered have I made a difference in their lives. Have I been supportive? Have I created good memories for them? Have I been a good sister, mother, or friend? Have I worked to support my community and church? Have I treasured life and relationships? Have I loved, clothed, fed or visited as the Bible commands? One poem Aunt Leona quoted down through the years is, “Life is a ballgame being played each day; life is a ballgame; everybody can play…”

Have you embraced, treasured and loved your siblings, children, and friends while you are able? Are there any regrets of things done doing your life’s journey? Are you leaving a legacy? While you still have your mental and physical faculties – have you thought about your own precious life and what you are doing with it? You be the judge.

JUANITA GAMBRELL FLOYD is vice president for Finance and Administration at CREATE Foundation. Contect her at juanita@createfoundation.com.