I have never been so grateful for a photography session as I am for this one I took in September, when these photos seemed special, important, and sooooo cute, but not urgent, vital, and irreplaceable. Yesterday, in the early morning hours, our beloved Joann, aka Lulu, Mom, Granny, Granny Ann, Nonnie, went to walk with Jesus after a short, severe, and unexpected illness. I realized I never blogged Granny and Papaw’s full session, so I’m going to do it now, while I tell you about a life well lived and loved. After you read this, go have your favorite photographer take photos of you, of your parents, of your grandparents. Don’t wait until you look or feel “better.” Do it now. I am so, so thankful to have her beautiful face just like it was a few months ago, to see the way she looked at Paps, to see her smile that lit up a room. I can almost hear her laugh when I look at these.
We are all working to wrap our mind around how someone so full of life, love, laughter can be gone. How can the woman who helped me paint our new house 6 months ago, the woman who babysat my kids (and we have 4 high energy kids, so that’s saying something!) so we could got to The Nutcracker two months ago, the woman who was always up for anything involving her family . . . how can she be gone? It boggles the mind. I am thankful that she was a follower of Jesus, that she was at peace and ready, and that we all got to say goodbye. But my goodness, this one hurts.
From the time I was in high school, I prayed that I would marry someone whose family would love me like their own and I would love them like mine. The last few days of grieving Granny have been such a testimony to the way God fulfilled that prayer beyond even what I hoped. I had to wait until I was 27, when Sean and I started dating, to meet Granny. From Day One, she used her legendary intuition and knew that I was just right for Sean. With that, I instantly and completely became one of hers. It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to belong to her family.
She wasn’t just a grandma to me, she was a close friend. We can and did talk about anything and everything. We had much in common and even more things I aspired to learn from her. One of the best compliments I have ever received was when she would say I reminded her of her younger self. This was almost always when I was tackling some ridiculous house project, which even in her 70s, she was usually in on in some way whether it was consulting or grabbing a paint brush.
Granny, Paps, Sean, and I have spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours in the last 12 years sitting in their screened-in-porch-eventually-turned-sunroom with coffee in the morning and a red wine in the evening while we talked, laughed, and enjoyed one another. We were all kindred spirits, I suppose.
I was and always will be inspired by her deep love and commitment to do absolutely anything for her family, impeccable ability to design, garden magic, ability to make simple gathering or a full on fancy evening feel over-the-top special, and her quiet, consistent strength–something about her that was often overshadowed by her fun-loving, vivacious personality. That strength was there, though, in the the way she raised her two kids, welcomed two more kids into her fold, cared for her family, partnered with Paps in all their business adventures, poured all of herself into making things beautiful and fun for everyone around her. It was there in the way she fought cancer, the way she grew older with grace, the way she stood by her people even in their darkest times.
As for Sean, I’m not sure anyone has ever had more utter adoration for someone than Granny had for Sean (and that man has been ridiculously loved by many, many people, so that’s saying something!). Sean spent a lot of time with Paps and Granny over the years, from “Granny Ann days” when he was little to enjoying her as a friend in his adulthood. When we saw her in the hospital to say goodbye, the topic of the parfait eating contest they had came up. They would eat one every time they were together, but she got a few extras when he wasn’t around. She giggled about it and said, “I just had to win!” In her words, she was always “willing to make a fool of myself for my grandkids.” During these last few days of reflecting, Sean said, “I think so much of what I have done and who I have become is because Paps and Granny always made me feel like I could do anything .” If Sean wanted to play baseball, they made him feel like he was going to be unstoppable. If Sean was going to law school, they told him all about how great he was going to do.
Granny’s love of her grandkids carried right through to her great-grandkids, and she was a young enough great-grandma that she took night shifts with new babies, babysat occasionally, had a sweet snack always on hand, and developed her own funny games with them, like when she got the twins hooked on Reader’s Digest. She would tease them about a new one arriving, but not let them have it until she had read it. Sometimes they would try to sneak it away, but she always caught them and they would laugh and say, “Ah, man!” Rowan always wants to have a “Girls’ Day!” and Granny Ann was always on the list of who absolutely must come so they could “go to the salon, and pick our colors, and get a little nail paint!” My gosh, we loved that woman!
All the tears are flowing and I need to wrap this up, but there is no way I could talk about her life without talking about how much Granny loved Papaw. He was unquestionably the love of her life, and she had lived enough life to fully appreciate that gift. You can see in the way she looked at him during this sessions that the decades had not diminished the way he made her feel. They had numerous adventures, businesses, travels, highs, and lows, and stuck together through it all. She gave him good advice and he listened (at least he did after he realized her intuition really was incredibly spot on!). Their friendship, respect, and love for one another was beautiful and watching them together was a gift for Sean and me.
We are thankful for the hope we have in Jesus and thankful that Granny was ours for a little while.