Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Love and loss

"Through tears and trials,
through fears and sorrows,
through heartache and loneliness of losing loved ones,
there is assurance that life is everlasting.
Our Lord and Savior is the living witness that such is so.
His words in holy writ are sufficient...
'Be still, and know that I am God' [Psalm 46:10]"

~ Thomas S. Monson

My dear grandmother, Katie Bishop, passed away yesterday.  She was 89.  I have shed more tears than I realized I had.  The next few days are going to be difficult ones for our family as we come together to say our final good-byes to a woman who has been such a force for good in all of our lives. But for now I need to's healing to my soul to put my thoughts into share some very tender feelings that I am feeling in my heart today.

To so many in our hometown she was fondly known as Miss Katie.  But to our family---we knew and loved her as Nanny.  And what a feisty and fun grandmother she was!! In my heart of hearts---I knew this day was coming--but I tried not to think about it.  It hurt too much to think about losing her. Instead, I kept telling myself to focus on the time we still had together.

I always looked forward to visiting Nanny when we'd travel to home.  While there were sadly too many miles between us these past several years (we lived 10 hours away from her)--our relationship was still as as strong as ever. We would talk on the phone every week--usually several times a week.  I savored every, single phone conversation.  Boy, I will sure miss talking with her and laughing with her---she was so easy to talk to--this was definitely one of her God-given talents. She could always put my mind at ease about the things in my life I was stressing and worrying over.

This morning when I awoke, I felt such a huge hole in my heart knowing that she is gone....a void is there that can never be filled.  For you see, Nanny has always been more than just a grandmother  to me these past 41 years.  She was one of my very best friends. A confidant and teacher in so many ways.  I could talk to her about anything and she would listen-- ever so patiently.  She always had such wisdom and advice to share.  She could be unbearably bold, feisty and hilarious at times and other times--tender, calm and loving. I always knew she loved me unconditionally and she was always there for me in the good times and the harder times.

My grandmother was a true southern woman and tougher than dirt.  She was the oldest of three girls and was a Daddy's girl as she liked to describe it.  She grew up in Kelsey.  Shortly after marrying my granddad and while he was off fighting in the war, she drove big logging trucks for her daddy, my great-granddad, Papa.  He had a lumber mill in our hometown of Gilmer, Texas.  After becoming a mother to her three children and to help pay the bills, she opened her own kindergarten and enjoyed teaching and loving on many sweet children in her little schoolhouse that she and Granddaddy built.  After her kids were grown, she and my Granddad bought and ran an automotive/general store on the square in the downtown of Gilmer.  She and Granddaddy worked so hard over the years running this store until my Granddad became too ill and they had to sell it.  I remember as a little girl going up to their store and hanging out.  I thought it was the coolest store ever! I especially liked it when Nanny would let me run the cash register and greet customers.

I have so many fond memories as a little girl spending the night at her house. We'd watch Dukes of Hazard and John Wayne movies.  She and granddaddy in their recliners and me laying on the comfortable spread she would make for me on their couch.  And then waking up to the smell of bacon as she was in the kitchen cooking up one of her amazing breakfasts.  Practically all of my childhood Christmas Eve's were celebrated at Nanny's house with all our loved ones. My brothers and I loved going RV camping with Nanny and grandaddy at Tyler State Park--playing Skip-Bo in the trailer, riding our bicycles around the campgrounds and cooking hot dogs by the campfire.  I gained my love of RV camping from my Nanny.

She helped me navigate my way through those icky teenage years.  Even sewed late into the night (many a night) to make my beautiful purple gown that I wore my senior year to the Queen's Ball as our little town's Yamboree queen. I still remember how when my high school boyfriend picked me up for a date at her house and how as we were walking out the door she called us back in.  And then proceeded to tell my boyfriend "Now buddy you better watch it...that's my precious granddaughter.  And this 'ole granny packs the heat and I can turn you from a rooster to a hen in one shot!"   Of course I was mortified (and it scared him half to death I'm sure).... but that was our feisty Nanny!  Never afraid to tell you what was on her mind or what she thought about you.

She helped counsel and guide me through my college years as I was figuring out how to be an adult. :-) She mourned with me and constantly encouraged me to keep moving forward with greater hope and faith as I faced my painful divorce in my 20s.  And then comforted me through my 30s as I struggled with my infertility and trying to start a family with my dear husband.  In fact, she (along with my sweet mom) played matchmaker for me and Jody-- we have them to thank for our union. Oh how she loved Jody Ray---she was so happy that we found each other again and married.  And boy was she thrilled beyond words when our prayers were finally answered--the day we finally became parents and adopted our son and daughter.

Nanny was there for me through all the joys and losses in my life thus far.  It's heartbreaking to think that she's no longer here to share this journey with me.  I wish more than anything I could call her up right now and tell her all about my day with the kids.  And then listen to her tell me about all the old ladies at the nursing home and how they are bugging her. :-)

But as painful as this loss is for all of us that she loved and she has now had to leave behind ---I have no doubt that the reunion she had in heaven after her passing yesterday was so very, very sweet.  She had waited so long to be reunited with my grandad, Alton---her daughter, Deanna --and son, David.

My heart is breaking for my sweet Dad...I know this is such a bittersweet loss for him.  He's now lost both his parents and all of his siblings. He has always been the most loyal and dedicated son, brother, husband and father.  Truly the most honorable man I know.  I hope Dad knows how proud Nanny was of him -- how deeply she loved him.  She told me once (very tearfully) in one of our heartfelt conversations that she must have done something right in the pre-mortal life to have been blessed to be the mother of Wesley Bishop.  There was never any question by the way she would light up when my Dad entered a room or how she always talked so fondly of him--- she was honored (and humbled) to be his mother.  

I have several voicemails from my grandmother saved on my phone...I've been saving them for a while.  I think I knew in my heart this day would soon come.  It was inevitable given her age and fragile health.  How thankful I am that I saved those voicemails.  I've replayed them a dozen times since I got the call last night about her passing.  As heartbreaking as it is to listen to them--and no matter how many times I shed tears when I hear her voice---it's so comforting to hear her sweet voice and to hear her say my name one last time. I've loved listening to her end every message by telling me how much she loved me.  Gosh I'm going to miss hearing her voice.

We are flying to our hometown tomorrow to be with the rest of my family to celebrate Nanny's life and her deep love of her family.  While I am not looking forward to this final good-bye in this earthly life--I am looking forward to gathering with our loved ones as we celebrate her life and comfort each other with all our funny Nanny stories.

For now, I need to end this post so I can get busy packing my crew up for our trip home.  I'll close with one of my favorite poems by Maya Angelou...for it reminds me so tenderly of my dear grandmother and what her life meant to those of us who loved her so dearly.  

When Great Trees Fall 

When great trees fall, 
rocks on distant hills shudder, 
lions hunker down in tall grasses, 
and even elephants lumber after safety. 

When great trees fall in forests, 
small things recoil into silence, 
their senses eroded beyond fear. 

When great souls die, 
the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile. 
We breathe, briefly. 
Our eyes, briefly, see with a hurtful clarity. 
Our memory, suddenly sharpened, 
gnaws on kind words unsaid, 
promised walks never taken. 

Great souls die and our reality, 
bound to them, 
takes leave of us. 

Our souls, dependent upon their nurture, 
now shrink, wizened. 

Our minds, formed and informed 
by their radiance, fall away. 
We are not so much maddened 
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance 
of dark, cold caves. 

And when great souls die, 
after a period peace blooms, 
slowly and always irregularly. 

Spaces fill with a kind of soothing 
electric vibration. 
Our senses, restored, 
never to be the same, whisper to us. 

They existed. 

They existed. 

We can be. 

Be and be better. 

For they existed.


My dear grandmother was that "great tree" for our family.  

She was an oak.  

She existed...she mattered (more than she'll probably ever know)...and my life is all the more richer and better for knowing her and loving her. 

I look forward to the day when we meet again---when I can embrace her...and tell her how much I love her.  



  1. Jennifer, I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your beloved Nanny. She sounds very much like my Granny. I miss her to this day. I pray for safe travels for you and the family, and for a joyous time of remembering such a wonderful woman of God during this difficult time. But, rest assured, she is rejoicing with loved ones at God's feet in heaven.

  2. Truly sorry for your loss.....however, the story of her telling your boyfriend that she packed heat made me laugh out loud. She sounded like an awesome woman.

  3. The words you wrote are so beautiful and convey the deep love you have for her. I will pray for you and your family. Someone once told me that the time with have with our loved ones on earth is only a small fraction of the time we'll have with them in eternity. You will be together with her again someday. I hope the time with family helps to bring some peace to your heart.

  4. I'm so sorry for your loss and the pain that it brings. What a blessing that you had such a close and loving relationship! I'm certain, then, that she'll still be there to help you through as you continue to navigate life...though I AM sorry that you won't be able to physically hear her voice. Sending hugs!


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