Yesterday, Tuesday, November 25, 2008, around noon-time, my dear maternal grandmother, Mrs. Jewel Brown-Sharp, passed away at Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas. She was 93 years old.
For a few moments yesterday . . . the music that is always in my heart and life . . . stopped.
My mother, my uncle, along with my eldest daughter and her husband, and I were having lunch down the street from the hospital. My daughter and I sensed that my mom, an only child, was a little "tired" and we had driven down to be with her, and to visit "Granny", who had been mercifully sedated by her doctors following two heart attacks over a 3 day period. When we arrived at the hospital, my grandmother, as we were told, had just died only a few minutes before. The hospital staff so tenderly prepared her for viewing by the family, and my mom received many hugs and condolescenses from hospital staff.
We are all so grateful that her recent physical and mental sufferings are now over. Granny was a deeply devoted Christian, whose devotion to family and friends was the stuff of legend, and an inspiration to many.
Granny was like me . . . an aspiring singer and musician who probably never got all the support she needed to pursue her inner passion. She always had a flair for the "theatric" at home, school and at the church . . . in the way she sang, in the way she played the piano or organ, and in the way she dressed.
I think her "flair for the dramatic" got passed from my grandmother, to my mother, to me. Except the dressing part. Blue jeans are always my first choise of "manly outer-wear!"
Many times on Father's Day, Granny had all the kids present sing before dinner. Usually, that was my brother and I, and my brother was terrified to sing. So I sand louder for both of us.
It was Granny who called and said, "Get on the bus and come to our house this weekend." Upon arrival, she took me to the piano to rehearse the "solo you are going to sing in church this Sunday."
My opinion or permission was never sought on these many occassions. She knew I was always willing to sing.
At the Broadway family Thanksgiving dinners, back when they were held at the Highland Lakes, Granny would encourage me to recruit cousin my Mike, my brother Mark, who had by then come to believe that singing was a good way to get the interest of girls (something that Mike and I had already come to understand), and other cousins to sing before Thanksgiving dinner. This of course was done only with and through Uncle W.D.'s permission. Granny later told me that if we sang, that W.D. or my grandfather's Thanksgiving Prayer would be shorter and we could eat sooner. She wanted some of Mary's dressing before it was all gone.
When I began fiddling around with the guitar (her words - pardon the pun), Granny gave me my first 12-string guitar, which I used when I sang with the group God-Unlimited down in South Texas in the 1974-75. My love and appreciation for the 12-string guitar has only grown these 33 years later. She attended several of our concert-church services, even scheduling us to sing for the youth at the Methodist Church in La Feria where she and Grandpa lived for over 30 years.
She was the one who would call when I served at FUMC-Waco, and later at FUMC-Hewitt, to tell me that she had "booked" me to sing at the Wesleyan Home or Wesleyan Nursing Home in Georgetown. Didn't matter if I had a local church or district event already on my calendar.
I joyfully showed up . . . and we always enjoyed the music.
She was the one who first introduced me to my favorite scripture in the Bible, Psalm 100:1-2 . . .
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
That Bible verse would later become my life mission to this day, and how I serve God best.
It was Granny, who not only surprised me with a guitar or two over the years, but also with a banjo. She said that banjo's made such a "happy" sound. Actually, she knew that I was very fond of Pete Seeger's music.
It was Granny, who on several occassions knowing that Liz and my Christmas budgets were very tight, sent us an early monetary Christmas gift, that always arrived in time for us to make Christmas a little more special for our two daughters, or for the foster girls we cared for at times in the past.
It was Granny, when finding out that our car had "finally died on the side-of-the-road" called me with instructions to call a car dealer she had already called and made arrangements with.
It was Granny, who sent me Grandpa Cokesbury bookstore card after I received my first appointment as pastor at Palo Pinto and Graford near Mineral Wells, with the note that read, "Go buy yourself a nice preaching robe . . . and forge your Grandpa's name on the receipt."
It was Granny, who believed so strongly in education, that she helped numerous members of m family many, many times so they might enjoy attending a good school and working toward their degrees. She gave a lot of many over the years to Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas as well.
It was Granny, who, upon my ordination as an Elder in the United Methodist Church, who after hugging me with tears in her eyes only said . . . "Hello Brother Elder . . . finally!"
Granny had this one particular trait known to many in the family. She would not tolerate, from her grandchildren or from her students, a mediocre effort of any kind. She demanded our full concentration to the task at hand. And we knew best from experience, that she was in charge . . . she had a way to remind all of us, unique to who we were, that she was not pleased. In my case, it was my absentmindedness about sending thank-you cards. Several times she wrote me notes, "Thank you for the sweet thank-you card which I am sure you intended to send!"
My mother is in her early 70's . . . to have been blessed with a mother for all her life until yesterday is a blessing. She will tell you the same.
I am 51, and to have had a Granny for all my life until yesterday. . . a Granny who loved me, who helped raise me, who encouraged me, who often held me accountable to the family at only the appropriate times, who was generous to me and to so many others, who unknowingly helped shape me largely in part to be who I am today by giving me permission to be who I am . . .
A blessing! A blessing indeed!
So, I only pause to stop singing for a moment of recognition, in dear memory of my dearly loved Granny.
After which, the song will come again, and will most assuradely continue . . . in her honor . . . and enpowered in her memory.
Ever forward . . . ><>