Last week I got a late night phone call informing me that my grandmother — my Mimi, Billie Breland — had passed away at the age of 83. Although her short-term memory had been fading in recent years, she was still in good health overall. She even still enjoyed cutting the grass and raking leaves.
But shortly after she and my grandfather (Grandaddy, Jimmy Breland) returned home to Cleveland, Miss. after spending Thanksgiving with the rest of the family here in Birmingham, Ala., she took a fall and broke her hip. The surgery went well, but the unfamiliarity with her surroundings in the rehab facility exacerbated her memory loss. She was often confused, even having trouble recognizing longtime friends. She also began experiencing occasional fainting spells the doctors called “syncope,” but we remained optimistic that a return to the familiar surroundings of home and her beloved crossword puzzles would help her come out of it.
Every day my Grandaddy stayed by her side in the hospital taking care of her, just as he’d done for every one of the 60 years they’d been married — right up until the night she passed.
Hundreds of family and friends flooded the funeral home the night of the visitation. She had been a public school teacher and my Grandaddy had been the Baptist student minister at the local university for forty years and preached at just about every church in the Mississippi Delta, so there was hardly anyone in town they hadn’t touched in some way.
I heard so many stories about the impact my Mimi had on people’s lives over the years — from students she taught to friends she did life with. There’s nothing like the celebration of a life lived well and a legacy that will last for generations. But I couldn’t help but think about my Grandaddy — the single kindest, most generous man I’ve ever known — having to wrestle with the Earthly loss of his sidekick of over six decades.
But always being one to consider everyone else before herself, my Mimi found a way to ease the pain.
She was an avid note writer. Every photo on the walls of their home is meticulously documented. She wrote down funny things that happened or quotes she wanted to remember, all in the perfect cursive handwriting that could only belong to a school teacher.
We don’t know exactly when she did it, but she left one final note tucked inside her checkbook — but this one wasn’t for her, it was for my Grandaddy, and it perfectly sums up the hope and comfort that comes with knowing you’ll meet again in eternity.
(If you can’t see the note, click here)
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— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) December 3, 2014