Last year, my great-grandmother (one of them, that is) passed away near the 4th of July, right when I had received a May 2016 publication date for my next novel, Solemn. Beyond just knowing I would never see my wise, calm, encouraging and humorous “Big Mama” ever again was the heartbreak she would never see what I had so eagerly wanted my remaining grandmothers to see: their names in a big published book, written by their little granddaughter they watched and helped to grow up. Having yet to have children of my own, I am unsure what it feels like to see little people in front of you that your life and existence on this Earth has given rise to. I know it must be an astounding feeling, particularly when they bring you delightful anecdotes and surprises from their lives. I had planned for her naming in my novel, along with her husband’s and son’s (my grandfathers) to be the most delightful surprise I had brought her yet. But I was too late.
And then this past summer of 2016, I lost another great-grandmother who also would have seen her husband’s and daughter’s names alongside hers as people who raised me. And she was the grandparent I most felt I was a reincarnation of, probably prophesied when my mother and grandmother gave me her middle name: we were both tiny little women, loved our bags and shoes, kept church and God in our lives, worshiped our peace, and enjoyed giving to others no matter if it was a small gift or a sincere compliment. And, we both loved the bigger cities, unafraid to venture out into a thick web of urban life. I am blessed and thankful she was alive to at least see the novel, to know I thought of her for it.
The irony of my dedication is these people’s lives stretched far and wide to enable to education and success I have had, in migration to Illinois to better their families and entire generations of people on this Earth behind them. I hope, as this summer played out and I was blessed with many beautiful experiences from Solemn, they were looking down smiling and watching and knowing how much I appreciated their influence in my life, to bring me the opportunities they dreamed their hard work and sacrifices would yield for others. I am humbled to be the woman I am today, very lucky to have always had strong backs and loving arms to shield me from life’s cruelties and pain when I was young, as I have grown up to experience the cruelty and pain of seeing angels fall as demons remain in this world without them to counsel me on coping. All I can do is write down what I see.