Day 14: Great memories
Happy Fourteenth Day of Thanks Everyone!
“I have loved you with an everlasting love, Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Jeremiah 31:3
I give thanks for the great memories in the compartments of my mind that sustain me in the good and not-so-good moments of my life.
My favorite flower is a sunflower. I have no idea if you have ever seen a sunflower field before but it is the most beautiful wonder on this planet to me. For years, I woke up to a sunflower field outside of the window and also passed another field a few blocks from that house. I can’t even describe in words the pure bliss I felt seeing my favorite flower and breathing in the clean, crisp air that surrounded me as I encountered them. I used to decorate my hair with the sunflowers I’d buy. Over the years, I have received some pretty awesome gifts of clothes with sunflowers all over them. Eclectic, unique, and stylish eye-glasses are my thing; I’m literally waiting for someone to create me a pair of beautiful sunflower eye-glass. The kind of joy that I would get from having a pair of prescription sunflower eye glasses created just for me would, I’m sure, send me to heaven and back to earth. (Don’t laugh at my simple joys!) At some point, I also want to memorialize myself in a portrait after I get sunflower body art. I digress.
As with everything, there is always a long round-about story behind why something is my favorite. I love smiles. The bright light that radiates from a person’s smile reminds me of the bold yellow petals of a sunflower and the sun’s light. The sunshine yellow petals of a sunflower invade the earth tone color palette of its environment, always demanding one’s undivided attention, and sprinkles joy into the atmosphere. Just like a smile, you can’t help but to stop and notice a sunflower’s beauty all the time. In addition to its lovely, ravishing color, my sunflower is committed to environmental justice, like I am, and is an earth savior. Wherever it is planted, it detoxifies and purifies the air around it. (I want to be like that. Wherever I am planted I want to purify and add life to the atmosphere.) I guess the other reasons I’m so fond of sunflowers is because they evoke the nostalgia of the honey moon stages of love for me and great childhood memories of my aunt Betty (aka “MyBetty”), who my uncle endearingly called “Sunshine”. Every time I saw my uncle love Betty and call her Sunshine, which was all the time, and I saw Betty smile or laugh, it reminded me of a sunflower. Call me crazy but, I guess my brain’s associations are just weird like that. In my mind, sunflowers equate to a smile, sunshine, love and Aunt Betty and I love them for that.
Sprinkled with a little bit of no-nonsense, “MyBetty” was definitely sunshine, joy, love, and a breath of fresh air rolled into one. She was also one of my favorite people in the universe. She was what we call a high yellow woman, maybe five-foot-six inches in stature and full of strong faith. Betty was a praying woman with a huge heart who nurtured and provided love in the form of stability for ALL of the folks in her sphere of influence. She basically helped raise my two cousins, my uncle’s children, along with her daughter and played a significant role in their upbringing. In her later years, she aided so much in raising her goddaughter’s children, they affectionately called her “mom” or “nana” too.
We were the best of girlfriends and so enjoyed each other’s company. We were chatterboxes, burning many midnight oils during the summers or when I came home from school vacations. She was from Georgia and could burn (cook); I still smell the oxtails she would cook with that dirty rice and beans. Although I don’t eat red meat any more, my salivary glands are working overtime, as I type, remembering the smells and taste of MyBetty’s food. We were each other’s comfort and wise counsel in so many of our life’s darkest moments. We kept each other’s deepest secrets. (I will keep hers to my grave!) She was definitely one of my timeless treasures. In the latter years of MyBetty’s life, as our schedules got more complicated, we would always joke that we had more time to spend with each when I lived outside of the state or country but that we couldn’t see each other now that we lived down the block. With that joke, we became more intentional about setting aside time at least once a month or every two months to see each other, even if it couldn’t be our midnight oil sessions.
I was devastated when we learned that MyBetty developed lung cancer. She had never smoked before but had developed that complication from working downtown in NYC during and after 911. With her strong faith and prayers, she weathered the treatments of chemotherapy and radiation for many years. Her strength to fight and her longevity was a direct testament to her faith. As her health declined, she would have long stays in a rehab/nursing home. I am beyond grateful to her best friend Janice and Fendi, her daughter, who were the true rocks that faithfully visited and stayed with her almost every day. When I visited her during her bouts in the nursing home, I brought her all the goodies she wanted to comfort her and made time to stay for hours so we could continue being the chatterboxes we always were. It warmed my heart to see her smile and to be able to handle any affairs she needed me to handle. It crushed my heart when I had to leave her to pick up Lilah. It saddened me to hear her say that she would get lonely and wondered where all the people she had helped over the years were. Nevertheless, she would say, “well, God is with me.” We always prayed before I left and told her when the next time was that I could come. I reminded her to answer the phone or text me when I called so I could check to make sure she was okay.
MyBetty died this year in the heart of the COVID crisis in NYC, which made it completely difficult for me properly grieve her. We couldn’t have a funeral and only ten people could be at the burial ground. While I was disappointed that so few people could go and pay tribute to our Sunshine, my uncle’s physical presence at the burial site calmed me because at least MyBetty knew that there was representation from our tribe to celebrate the memory of her life and what she meant to us. The rest of us celebrated MyBetty, my sunflower, from the virtual platform and sent her home to Glory. I miss that I can’t pick up my phone to talk to her; I miss our lunch dates; our miss our chatterbox sisterhood; I miss her smile. But, I am so glad that I have those memories.
And each time I see a sunflower, it reminds me of a smile that shines real bright, a tangible sun that I can hold in my hand, and my auntie Betty, “MyBetty” also known as Sunshine.
Today as we give thanks for great memories, lets hold a moment of silence to let the heart-warming memories of all those we love and have lost before and during this pandemic flood our minds, make us smile, and fill us with joy. Celebrate those great memories and allow them to be the light and treasures that you hold dear for the rest of your time on earth. I also invite you to gift a sunflower, my favorite flower, to someone and create a memory today that you will mark as something you can look back to and smile at for the rest of your life.
Have a great Day of Thanks!