‘Right after my grandmother died, I found my mom in her bedroom writing down her thoughts. Through her tears she said: ‘You can read this when I’m done.’’

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“Happy Birthday Momma:

When the boys ask me why I rest my hand on their father’s leg when he’s driving, I think about all the miles my family would travel in the car on summer vacations. I remember looking to the front and she’d be sitting there with her hand resting on daddy’s leg. They didn’t speak too much but occasionally they’d look at each other and smile. When I touch my husband’s leg, or reach over and hold his hand in the car I tell the boys:

My momma taught me that.

When I come down in the evening in my PJs and the boys come rushing over to sit by me, Sam will raise his head and say:

‘Ohhh….you have on that perfume don’t you?’

I think about hugging my mom over the years; burying my head into her neck and smelling her perfume. I remember it warmed me and made me feel safe and loved. So, when the boys snuggle down next to me taking in long breaths of whatever perfumed lotion I’ve slathered on, I think:

My momma taught me that.

When I give a stranger a couple of dollars I remember watching my mom reach into her pocket book and pull out money at the grocery store. She’d help the person in front of us if they were a little short. I’d walk away from the register holding her hand, looking up at that beautiful face, and feeling so proud. Charity is one of the things she taught me.

When I start to put together a meal, I think about all the meals that she made in our kitchen. Meals weren’t just something you ate, meals were an event. Meals were cornbread and pinto beans, collard greens with ham hocks and sausage gravy and biscuits. Saturday dinner was a steak, always a steak, sometimes in the kitchen or sometimes in the dining room where you “dressed” for dinner and ate by candlelight. The kitchen table was a place of ritual and family, sometimes heated discussions and always good food. When people ask me where I learned to cook I tell them:

My momma taught me that.

When I stand on the porch and wave goodbye to family and visitors pulling down the driveway and I take a moment to say a little prayer for their safe journey, I remember all the times I left my home on May Avenue, watching momma wave to me as I pulled away. I know how important that last wave is, and I think:

My momma taught me that.

Even as mom started her slow journey from us, even when she didn’t always know who I was or where she was, even then she’d hug me and tell me she loved me. That was her nature.

I wonder if I would want to live the last years of my life as my momma did. I can’t help but think about how much comfort and joy she brought us by being there for us to visit, to touch and hug. We’d sit and share a cup of coffee, maybe watch a cooking show or take trip out to the garden. Sometimes we were strangers, sometimes we were her daughters but always her gentle nature recognized us as friends.

She gave so much and continued to ask for so little. I’d want to do that for my boys as well. She allowed us to let her go slowly and when it came time to say goodbye, we did. My sister was there when she left us. As gently as my momma lived, she died.

Many years ago, right after my grandmother died, I found my mom in her bedroom writing down her thoughts.

Through her tears she said:

‘You can read this when I’m done.’

She wrote pages about the things her momma did that made her world so full of love.

If you wonder why I thought it important to write these things down now, through my tears I can only tell you:

My momma taught me that.

Janice Irene Austin (Barrett)

October 17, 1923 to November 7, 2009

Every good thing I am; is rooted in you!”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Dianna Flett.  Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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