If You Forget: A Poem For My Mamaw

Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.

Anne Roiphe
violet flowers 
poem

I wasn’t going to post again until Tuesday but, earlier this evening, I got word that my beloved grandmother is not long for our world and I wanted to post a poem for her. I can’t tell you what a source of love, kindness, and acceptance she has been for me in this life. Her and my mom have always been my number one fans; believing me to be capable of almost anything. Her love and protection have kept me safe and knowing that that safety waited for me, no matter how far away or how long I’d been gone, has kept me sheltered for all of my adult life. She is a beautiful, gentle woman and I cannot express into words what I owe her.

In January of 2019, we found out that she had dementia. She was starting to forget things and she was plagued with severe paranoia. We weren’t sure how bad it would get or if we could make it get better. In my ruminations, I wrote this poem for her. I posted it on Facebook and someone in the family showed it to her. She told me it was the most beautiful thing she had ever read and that I should publish it because, “all grandparents would love to read that, not just me!” So, in honor of my shelter from the storm and in direct alignment with her beautiful, grandmotherly wishes, a piece of prose for sweet Mamaw.

If You Forget Me Before You Go

If you forget me before you go, I hope that you remember freshly painted, lavender walls and the smell of Avon bubbles in a 5-year-old’s bath. I hope fried pork chops and bread pudding still cause your mouth to water and your stomach to pine.

If you forget me before you go, I hope you will still let me play for you Randy Travis and Dolly Parton, with her coat of many colors. I hope that it still makes you smile and dance.

If you forget me before you go, I promise to remind you of softballs tossed through windows and a pint-sized prankster in a tiny, brown rocking chair.

If you forget me before you go, I hope you think of Saturday nights spent watching scary movies and feel a familiar, happy tug at your heart. I hope you recall mischievous cousins, testing the bounds of their culinary skills while everyone slept. I hope you have even a vague awareness of a pair of well-intentioned children handing you a bouquet of tulips, freshly picked from the difficult neighbor’s yard.

If you forget me before you go, please remember plump, round faces, beaming at you with love; soft and fine hair, attached to a sleeping head, brushing your cheek; sticky hands, holding tightly to yours; and tiny arms wrapped around your neck.

If you forget me before you go, please also forget all of the pain. I pray that you forget all of the times when you didn’t feel like enough. Let fade from your mind every person who let you down and every person who couldn’t see the tremendous riches that lie within you.

If you forget me before you go, I hope that your many great losses follow me; may they no longer haunt your heart and spill tears on your cheeks. If you must forget, I hope it takes your burdens too.

If you forget me before you go, hold tight to blue bells and circus peanuts and nosy little girls decorated in your costume jewelry and Merle Norman rouge. Recall uproarious laughter and practical jokes; graduations and births; and random week nights, safe and warm and fed under the soft, yellow lamplight.

If you forget me before you go, I beg you to remember all of the things that make you feel safe, along with all of the things that make you laugh.

If you forget me before you go, above all else, please try to remember love. So much love. I hope you never forget all of the people that you taught how to love, by loving them well. Bandaged scrapes, lullabies in a rocking chair, tears kissed away. Encouragement, faith, safety, and shelter. Acceptance. Advice. Understanding. Trust. Kindness.

If you forget me before you go, I hope you remember your own innate goodness. I pray you never forget your own beautiful heart.

If you forget me before you go, I promise to try harder to see the person that you have always seen in me, when I look in the mirror. I promise to carry your unwavering confidence and support through to my very last moment. I hope that we all remember to see ourselves through your eyes; you have always seen the very best version of us all.

If you forget us before you go, we will keep on loving you and each other, just like you showed us.

If you forget me before you go, my heart will break; I will keep loving you as hard as I can, even if you stop letting me. Because even if you forget, I will always remember.

She didn’t forget me, my Mamaw. Through medical intervention, they were able to save her from her paranoia. Though things would never quite be the same again, we got 2 more years with our matriarch. I just spoke with her a couple of weeks ago and we laughed about the past. She’ll never forget the ugly cowboy boots I was obsessed with when I was 5 and I will never forget her. I will be forever grateful, for she taught me how to be kind. She taught me how to love unconditionally. She taught me what it meant to be safe in a scary and cruel world. We have more in common than either of us ever realized and my life will never be complete without her in it. You’ll know when she goes because it’ll be the day the world dims, even if just a little. I love you, Mamaw.

Love and Light. Keep fighting the good fight! 💜💜💜

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