This past Tuesday, our sweet grandmother, Bernice Stalnaker, passed away. Grandma Stalnaker had a rare form of leukemia. She was an amazing woman. A strong woman. A kind woman. She was told this summer when she received the leukemia diagnosis, she might have a few weeks. That was almost almost 8 months ago. Right before Christmas she has hospitalized, and her oncologist told us, we could expect about a week when she got home. That was almost two months ago. We all knew this day was coming. I dreaded this day. I was very sad and heart broken, but relieved. It is so painful to see someone you love suffer. When the pain is so bad, and all you can do is be there and hold their hand. It is a helpless feeling.
Not only was she a grandmother (she is Michael's maternal grandmother), she was our neighbor and friend. We have lived next door to her for 11 years. She has been there on a daily basis for our family and my children. I am so thankful for the time she got to spend with Georgia, Jack and Daniel. She loved them so much, and the very last time we saw her awake, she said she hated to leave her babies. I can't even begin to put into words all the kind things she has done for us. Often she would call in the afternoon and tell me she was cooking dinner for us. Or the times she would just show up at the house with her famous "goody bags" filled with all kinds of junk food for the children. She helped me with with cooking all the time. If I ever needed to know anything about how to cook something, she always knew exactly what I needed. I can remember looking out the living room window and seeing her in our front yard raking our leaves, or all the times we would sit on her back porch and just talk while the kids played in her backyard. These times were so precious to us. It is a hard and sad thing to drive up in our driveway and look over to her empty house. It will truly be sad to see someone else moved in eventually.
Her pastor chose to read from Proverbs 31 at her funeral. As he read these verses, my heart was racing because every verse he said was so true. First, she loved her Lord with all her heart, and anyone who knew her knew she did. She was a devoted wife, and mother, and loved her family. She didn't have an easy life. Her mother died when she was only 4, leaving her and three brothers. She had to grow up fast, being the only girl. She married when she was 14 and had her first of five daughters when she was 16. She worked long, hard hours at the cotton mill here in Tallassee. For years she would wake up and cook two full meals in the morning: one for her father and one for Grandaddy Stalnaker who worked the third shift at the mill (so when he woke up while she was at work he would have a good meal). Then cook breakfast for the girls. She then would work a full day at the mill and come home and cook another full meal for the girls. After dinner she often sewed. She made all of their clothes, even their bathing suits. She kept a clean house and would spend a lot of evenings cleaning. If you ask people around Tallassee about her, you will probably get one of two things. She was known for her cakes and the flowers in her yard. While she was talented beyond belief in those areas, she was so much more than that! She was a true Christian, wife, mother, and grandmother and she will me missed more than words can express.
This has been very hard on my children. Georgia and Mamaw (as they called her) had a very special and close relationship. I look back on the past few years, and hope Georgia will be able to remember some of those days. Last year, before she started kindergarten, she went to Mother's Day Out four mornings a week. Almost everyday when we got home, she would ask if she could go to Mamaw's house. She would spend the afternoon with her helping her in the yard, shelling peas, cracking pecans, watching cartoons, or helping her clean the house. Mamaw loved her being there as much as Georgia enjoyed being with her. Jack loved his Mamaw too. Everyone tends to think small children don't understand what is happening when someone is sick or dies, but I think they understand more than we do sometimes. For weeks, every time we went to see her, Jack would saw, "Mamaw sick. Mamaw sad." It would break your heart to hear that sweet voice say those words. The day she passed away, I picked him up from preschool. After we got out of the car I told him we were going to go over to Mamaw's house. I had not said anything about her dying or even mentioned her name until I told him we were going to her house. As we walked through her back yard, he held my hand and looked up at me and said, "Mamaw not sick anymore." I told him he was right that she wasn't sick anymore. When we went inside, he walked to her bedroom, looked in and said, "Mamaw not here anymore. Mamaw not sick anymore." Jack was so right! In the words of a two year old, she isn't sick anymore. She is no longer in pain. She isn't here anymore.....she is in a wonderful place and is rejoicing with her Savior!