I got lost today, which is somewhat comical since the area of town that I was lost in is one that I frequent regularly. I’m typically pretty on point when it comes to directions, but for some reason, today I couldn’t get my bearings around where I was and how I was going to get to where I needed to go. I turned around too many times to count and almost became “that person” who pulled out the GPS app on her phone to use in the city that she’s lived in her whole life.
But alas, I didn’t need to go there as I finally found myself on the right road heading in the right direction to my next stop. It was a road that I could probably predict every twist and turn as I had been riding on it years before I was driving myself. Now, a cut through, but decades ago it took me to a very important end destination. Her home.
A humble apartment hidden just a block off the busy road was always filled with such warmth even on the coldest of days, country cookin’ you could smell even in the hallway, and more love than could ever be described. She made sure of that. You didn’t leave her place without a full belly and a full heart, that’s for certain. And of course a bag of pennies and a piece of candy from her infamous candy bowl.
My grandma was a simple person when it came to what she needed in life. Family, college basketball, her plants, and her Bible. Boy did she have the greenest thumb around, especially for African Violets, and while she loved your company, if her favorite basketball team was playing on TV while you were over, you betcha it would be the entire topic of conversation. And while a sports fan I am not, I always loved seeing her get excited when her team scored.
I remember a lot about that one-bedroom/one-bathroom apartment. I remember the couch that she got that was her prized possession, finally a comfortable one after her previous was like sitting on concrete. I remember her bathroom and the gel packs she would keep in the toilets to keep them constantly clean. I remember how a third of her living room was populated with various flowers and plants and how she loved to watch her Christmas and Easter cactuses bloom annually.
I remember her bedroom, and how when I was little she would let me root through her jewelry, sometimes borrowing some. And her kitchen table, small but mighty it was. Always adorned with a full meal consisting of fried chicken and all of the fixin’s. I remember playing under the kitchen table frequently with the plastic fruit she used to decorate with. My mom always saying to not break anything; my grandma always assuring her that there was nothing in her home that she was worried about getting broken. I remember her calling me “schoogs” and getting me a tin of popcorn for Christmas each year. It was my favorite.
I remember her, so vividly. Her red hair and her brown eyes. How tall she was, and how I secretly hoped to one way not have to physically look up to her, although I knew I always would in so many other ways. She was a woman of a faith much stronger than most. Her strength was so admirable; her compassion was so contagious; her love so deep. That was my Grandma. Well, my “Grandma with the candy bowl”, to which I named her.
I had been on this road so many times it felt like home, driving back to her place to sit on the front porch and talk about life. Or mom and I would pick her up and take her to dinner at her favorite buffet early in the afternoon. I even took the city bus on this road to her home in high school when she learned I had a long walk from the previous bus route to my house. No..no…Grandma could not let that happen. Instead, she insisted that I switch routes, come to her place, and she would not only fix me a feast, but we could enjoy each other’s company. And her cooking was so good that I couldn’t wait to eat her fried chicken, even if I didn’t eat any other meat ever! But the company was always the best.
Today when I drove down the all-too-familiar road, I was overwhelmed by these memories, ones that I cherish dearly. As I inched closer to the intersection where I used to turn to get to her apartment, I so badly wanted to turn the car and turn back time. I wanted her to be waiting for me on her front porch as she inspected the flowers that she planted in the community flower pots she had purchased. I wanted all to be right again. I wanted her back.
I’m not alone in that want. We all have loved ones we miss dearly and are anxious to try anything to get just one more glimpse of or one more conversation with. I’ve begged for dreams. And the few where she has appeared are locked in my “don’t-ever-forget” place in my mind. And to hear her voice once more pulled me to go see a messenger, and as a Catholic, you bet you can expect this girl to have some Catholic guilt over seeing someone who can open the gate to the other side. However, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
In fact, just this morning on my way to my lunch destination, I was listening to a replay of my session from June, where my dad and I spent time with a woman who not only draws auras but gathers messages along the way. Take it for what it’s worth and disbelieve if you want, but to me it was an experience that my heart was yearning for and needed so much.
The session started with my dad, although with me in the room we both received messages throughout. It didn’t take long for her to show up, first by her middle name and later by her first. I’m sure she knows that while I miss everyone who has passed, she holds a piece of my heart that I won’t ever get back until we meet again. I know she knows I need her. From the moment she passed, she started sending me red birds to let me know that while she’s not still here in body, she will never leave my side.
In the six years she’s been gone, she never really has. And the messenger confirmed what in my heart I always knew. Another person that meant a lot to my dad also made his presence known in a loud and humorous way, in typical Leon-fashion if you ask him. After a moment of him picking on my dad with his usual antics, he left a message that was more profound to me after I had listened to the replay of our messenger visit nearly 20 times.
“There ain’t a breath you ain’t breathin’ that we aren’t with you. We are. And every thought that you’re thinking – we know what you’re thinkin’. And we are kicking your ass to get you to where you need to be. With love of course.”
Today I was meant to get lost. I was meant to not take the expressway and find myself on back roads. I was meant to approach that intersection and reflect. I was meant to remember… to remember her. While a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of her, today I needed to hear her confidence in me. I needed her faith in what I’m doing in life and who I’ve become thus far. I needed a little “it’s okay schoogs” from that Southern woman who I never did catch up in height to.
And just when I realized how much I needed her, I was reminded that she’s never left my side. No one has. In the times I feel most alone, I am having my hands held tight, arms wrapped around my waist, and I’m being carried in ways I don’t even expect. In my darkest moments if I take a second to just breathe and look around, I will see that those we love most are always with us. She’s in the red birds she sends me – of course she would send them, she was a U of L fan! She’s in the love that’s placed in the hearts of my kids. She’s ever-so-present in the memories that she caused me to recollect. She is a part of the others she places in my life.
I’m not alone, or lost. Ever. In fact, today I realized that sometimes when you feel most lost, you’re actually the most found.