This is honestly the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. Death is a difficult subject. And as I write this, it is almost 7 hours since I received the news that one of the most influential people in my life growing up and through my adult years had suddenly passed away.
Rose W Morgan.
Even looking at that name right now is making me take a few moments to breath. She was… is my Grandmother. She was 86 years old. She was wise, kind, hilarious, wonderfully opinionated (see the first descriptor: Wise), nurturing, caring… she was love. Over the years we had several deep discussions. Many barbecues, Thanksgivings, Christmas’, Birthday Parties… there are so many memories I want to put down here but I’m going to do my best to choose just a few. Because I learned a lot from her.
One of my earliest memories is from (I think) Christmas, 1984. We were about to move to Florida and one of our last visits was at Grandma and GrandDad’s house. We had opened a bunch of presents and then there was one last BIG present for me and my siblings. They presented me, my brother and sister with small boxes. Grandma was making it a big to do and on the count of three, we were to open up them. 1. 2. 3! We tore into the boxes and each contained a 2×4 inch die cast metal sports car. I was STOKED! 5 years old and I just essentially got a New Car. But that isn’t where it stopped… while we were distracted with the cars, my three Aunt’s rolled out brand new bicycles for all three of us. Mind. Blown.
A year later, this memory revolves around loss in the form of my GrandDad, her late husband. Still 5 years old and sitting in the funeral home next to my Aunt Andrea (Grandma Rose’s daughter). I recall looking over and seeing my Grandmother sobbing, mourning the loss of her best friend and my young mind knew he was gone, but wasn’t able to fully process the loss at that age. I asked Andrea, “Why is Gramma crying?” and her response will be one I’ll never forget. She moved her hands in fluttering wings motion and mouthed “because granddad’s with the angels”. Tears were streaming down her face and that was the day that I learned about mourning.
I spent the summer of 1991 at her home in South Carolina. I remember it being VERY hot out. During the days, I would spend my time watching movies she taped off of HBO or old TV shows like the Addams Family or Gilligan’s Island. That was also the year that Super Mario Brothers 3 came out. The Nintendo console was back in Florida but it was definitely the new big thing and it was heavy on my mind and I talked constantly about it (now that I have kids that will tell me EVERYTHING about Minecraft, I understand Grandma… trust me I understand now). Something I will never forget is when she took me to the Mall where my Aunt Sandra worked at. She asked as we were on our way there “this game you keep talking about, do you know where to buy it?” and I excitedly said any electronic’s store like Babbages or Radio Shack. The mall happened to have a Babbages and before we picked Aunt Sandra up, sure enough, Grandma took me into Babbages and picked up Super Mario Bros 3. I spent the rest of that summer visiting with them but also, reading the manual and looking at the cartridge daily. I learned about giving that summer.
Summer 93, I was set to go to Italy, Tunisia and Malta with Project Marco Polo (a National Geographic/Naval venture) and the foundation/scholarship program that she started financed a fair amount of the trip. I learned about generosity.
When I was in my A.I.T. Job training at Fort Jackson and had weekend passes to leave the base, her house was always my destination. I will never forget her seeing me in my uniform. She was so proud. We took pictures together. She taught me about having pride in myself/accomplishments.
When I told her that I was getting married. She said how she was not able to make it up to Canada, but that if I loved her, then she loved her. And that she couldn’t wait to meet my future wife. When we made it back and I introduced her to Natasha, she welcomed her into the family with open arms and they formed an amazing bond. She loved her like she was her own Grand Daughter. I learned a deeper meaning of acceptance from that experience.
When our first child was born, she brought my father and all of my aunts down with her. She brought us food. eventually, our children grew to call her “Gra Gra” and that is what we still call her to this day. I learned even more about family because of her.
There are so many more memories I could pour through but all of them lead up to today… where she taught me about loss.
There is a vacuum that I feel all around me at the moment. An empty hole is just sitting in the center of my chest. Sometimes, throughout this day, I’ve felt like I wouldn’t be able to make it now that she’s gone. That it would be too hard to push through… It is an incredibly claustrophobic feeling…
I also know that life does continue. I will be traveling to South Carolina on 9/18 for the upcoming funeral. I’ve been to a few funerals with Gra Gra and at each one, she sang special music. I can still hear her voice. I can see her ‘performing’. I know there is video of her singing. There are pictures of her on many hard drives, voicemail’s on my phone… she’s all around me. And I know that each day, all that were touched by one of the kindest, most compassionate people I’ve ever known, will get better. One of Gra Gra’s favorite phrases as “Inch by Inch it’s a Cinch”. And in that mantra, she taught me about hope.
One of Gra Gra’s other favorite sayings is by Edgar Albert Guest. She had this poem memorized and it was by far, one of my favorite things to hear her recite. And oh does it ever resonate with me today:
I promise, Gra Gra. Whenever things get tough. Whenever things seem overwhelming… I’ll remember how bright your eyes would get whenever you would say “He started to sing as he tackled the thing, That couldn’t be done…”