This time of the year I think about my grandmother, Mildred Christmas, even more than usual. I spent Christmas Day nearly every year of my life in her home, so of course the holidays bring back many memories of her. I also remember in elementary school, friends used to think I was making up her last name.
Grandmother was so interesting, and such a beautiful person, there was no need to make up anything about her. She was larger than life, and the longer I knew her, the more she amazed me.
The roses in this photo grow in my front yard from a planting my parents gave me from a bush in her yard. She called them sweetheart roses, and hers grew in a bed outside her back door. Every summer they bloom, a gift from her that lives on. When I smell them, memories of her become more vivid, and something of her soul is in that scent.
Three years ago on this day, Grandmother was struggling for air. She had been in the hospital with congestive heart failure and various complications. I wasn't able to be with her, because I myself was in bed struggling for air, with a flu or something that had filled my chest and made me cough. I couldn't risk making her sicker by visiting her, even if I'd felt up to it.
The last time I saw her, she had come from her home in Brownsville to Memphis to attend the Christmas concert my chorus performed. She loved music, and had always encouraged my own music. She was exhausted that day, didn't even make it to church that morning. But she came for my concert.
If I'd had any idea that day that it was the last time I would see her, who knows what else I might have said to her?
We never know when people we love will leave.
We never know when we will leave this life, either. We have no control over that.
But these roses remind me that we all have a lot to do with what we will leave behind for those we love, when our time comes.
And how much we have to be thankful for, from those who have left us precious gifts.
Sweetheart roses are a perfect symbol for my grandmother, who had both a sweet heart and the tough endurance of a rosebush that comes back year after year.
Three years ago today, her breaths were limited. But today her inspiration lives on.