Muriel Elaine King- GranGran
I don’t believe that it’s death itself that is a difficult concept for the human mind to comprehend. I believe that the abrupt finality of the unknown is what causes so much heartache, heartbreak and confusion. From the date of our birth, death is essentially inevitable. The number of days, moments, memories, experiences, and even the number of breaths that we are allotted has been divinely preset upon our metaphysical arrival on earth. The deeper that I allow my thoughts to process the pertinent details of death, the closer I glean to the notion that we are essentially born to die. From the moment that we exit our Mother’s womb and we are delivered into an atmosphere predicated on death. During the creation and conception of a human life, I am almost positive that no one is considering death. There aren’t any thoughts that the fetus may die in a stillbirth, or that the Mother may die from complications throughout pregnancy or even at delivery. Yet, as soon as a baby enters the world, we ultimately prepare for their demise. Even the role of a Mother is to wean her baby from its dependence upon her as Mother, introduce independence to delay death for as long as humanly possible to ‘live’ a good life. I will take the liberty of speaking for the general population when I say that I do not believe that I considered or entertained the thought of death at all until I became a Mother. As soon as I held my baby in my arms, I knew that I would never want to leave her in this world without her Mother.
Reminiscing back to my pregnancy, I can remember calling Gran. We were in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and I feared that I would not be able to present my swollen, pregnant belly for my GranGran to rub oils on. Nor would I have the opportunity to lay across her bed, while she stroked my temples and read verses of the Bible aloud as I cradled my belly. I imagined my pregnancy without my Gran’s delicate touch and it hurt. Rather than wallow in sadness, I decided to pick up the phone and call her. I would share the news with her via the telephone. It wasn’t the most ideal way to share the news. However, given the circumstances it was the most feasible option. I imagined the delivery of such special news to be rather impersonal this way, but I preferred some form of communication rather than none. I called Gran around mid-morning on February 12, 2020. I was preparing for my 12-week appointment. I knew that after this appointment, I would be declared well beyond the first trimester and I felt comfortable sharing the news with my family at that point. I knew I had to call Gran first, I could not let her find out from anyone other than me that I had been chosen by God to bring life into the world. Gran’s phone rang a considerable number of times. I was always sure to let the phone ring when I called her. Fiercely independent, Gran lived alone at ninety years young. This would allow her time to come out of her room and down the hall to answer the phone. Eventually she answered. “Great day! Good Mawnin’” She greeted me. I began to grin incessantly. “Great day Gran! How are you feeling? Do you know who this is?” I blurted out in a litany of questions. Before I could fix my lips to ask her another question, Gran interrupted my thoughts with her response. “Well of course I do!” She offered in her decadent bajan accent. “This Michael Daughter, born the nine-teeeeen-th of November.” She offered.
I couldn't help but to blink back the tears as she said it. I could never understand for the life of me how a then ninety year-young woman, not only remembered who she was speaking to, but also their birth date. I cupped my belly with my right hand and held the phone with my left. It was in that very moment, I imagined myself sitting on the back porch, on the top step, just beneath Gran’s legs while the mango tree provided us with shade and sustenance. I allowed the fantasy to roam, reaching the crevices of my mind, gaining additional creativity along the way. I continued to fantasize about enjoying a steaming, hot, heaping plate of macaroni pie, flying fish, fresh salad and a side of monkey bread. As I sat on the edge of my couch, listening to my Gran excitedly reminisce about the time she came to the states to visit me as a child.
I cupped my belly with my right hand, and removed the phone from my left hand’s grasp, leveraging my hunched left shoulder to push my phone up toward my ear. I used my left hand to support my endeavor to get up off the couch. As a grown 33 year old woman, I discovered that I was nervous. I paced back and forth from the balcony back into the living room and then the kitchen. Ultimately pacing in laps around my apartment until I mustered enough courage to tell Gran what was on my heart and who was living in my belly. Finally, I collected my strength and my thoughts. “Gran…” I began slowly. “Mmmmm?” She responded. “I’m….pregnant?” I suggested, more like a question than a statement. “What was that you say?” She asked. Now I know good in hell well Gran has never been hard of hearing, but I obliged the game she decided to play. “Gran, I am having a baby, a girl, in August.” I offered in a tone of finality. I wanted to express that I said that I said and that was that. “A girl? A GIRL.” She cooed. She never asked me how I knew or if the doctor or midwife had confirmed the information as I presented it to her. I waited patiently for her to offer some motherly, more like grand-motherly advice.
Naturally, she did. We talked about breast feeding, drinking tea to make my milk come down, taking Luke-warm, not scalding hot baths, walking regularly, maintaining a diet high in healthy, soluble fats, etc. Essentially, all of the things that I had already been doing, Gran confirmed for me as the right thing to do. “How you been keeping?” She asked, thoroughly concerned. “Good.” I said. “I have been taking my vitamins, drinking my water and trying to keep down as much food as I can.” “Drink more water.” She demanded. “Warm water. Mash up ginger, boil it up nice and drink it so settle your stomach.” As we began to wrap up the call, there was one last thing that I wanted to discuss with her. “Gran, I’ve been having dreams. Very, vivid dreams.” I said, as I patiently waited for her to collect her thoughts and offer me some advice. “Do they frighten you?” She asked. “Well, no. Sometimes they are so real, that it’s difficult for me to distinguish the dream from my reality. Sometimes I dream that I am reliving actual events from my past. I show up the way that I am now, to a situation that I experienced more than a decade ago.” She grew silent. It was almost as if I could hear the gears turning in her head. She was so thoughtful and precise in her response. “Girl.” She started, “You are on the precipice of experiencing one of God’s greatest gifts. You are on the cusp of Motherhood. When God grants you the gift as the experience of bringing life into the world, he opens up the intuitive capacity in your mind.”
My Gran, a God-fearing, religious woman, would never say that my third-eye was opening at an exponential rate to prepare me for Motherhood, but I knew enough of what she was saying to understand what she was not saying. “When you bring life into the world, God opens up your world to reveal all that you need to know. Everything that you have not come to terms with will surface. Learn to trust yourself, lean into you.” “When I was a child..” she quoted. “…I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put those childish things away. 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 verse 11.” She quoted the Bible with such ease. It always amazed me how sharp her mind remained. She never missed a beat. Gran could recite most every chapter within the Bible and had memorized just about every hymn there was. I took heed to all that she said, as well as everything that she did not say. We ended the call, I told her I love her, she told me to send love to my father. I promised her that I would, I told her that I would let her get back to her day so that she could enjoy her soaps and the news in peace.
As the phone call concluded, I waddled out onto the balcony and drew in a fresh, crisp breath of air. I suddenly felt so calm. The nervousness and feelings of angst all subsided and I felt more than ready to conquer the world and then some. I found it interesting that she never once asked me about the baby’s father. Gran married as a very young woman. She was married with five kids, (four survived) at the ripe, bold age of 21. Obviously, she knew that I was not married. It was almost as if she knew that the situation wasn’t worth discussing, so she didn’t bring it up. In addition to managing her household, she performed needlework in town. She nourished the creativity of her mind by creating hand-made toys for my uncles and father when they were children. A philosophical thinker, Gran maintained the possession of her divine feminine in a way that I have never witnessed anyone else do in my lifetime. A tiny woman, no more than 4’10, probably 90 lbs or so. Gran exuded divine feminity. She was soft and delicate, while still strong. In my mind, she epitomized grace, poise and femininity. The more that I reflect on the woman that she was the more similarities and comparable traits I am able to delineate between she and I.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve battled with her passing. When I learned that she had breast cancer I was immediately saddened. My great aunt, Gran’s sister passed away from breast cancer not even three years ago. I knew that Gran would not want to take any medications, I knew that she would not opt for any surgeries. Hell, it was difficult enough for my Uncle to get her to see the Dr. My Gran had made her peace with God and decided that she was prepared for whatever her destiny would be. When I received the call on Thursday, September 15th, 2022, I was almost prepared to hear the news before it had been delivered. I knew that she was no longer with us. My heart sank because of the drama that ensued as I attempted to obtain my daughter’s passport when she was just turning one. I knew that My Gran’s time on this earth was limited. I knew that if I wanted my daughter to meet her, that I would have to fight for it. Perhaps I should have fought harder, perhaps I should have invested my energies in other means to ensure that I was able to make it happen. I don’t know what the answer is. What I do know for sure, is that Gran’s Love is forever entrained my being. Her philosophical thought process has established real estate in my mind. Her creativity and eccentric ways are expressed in my very being. She will forever be with me, and I will forever be with She. Me an She, the two ah we.