When my great-grandmother, whom we called "Grandmaw," died, she left me three things: a bottle of wine, a bag of cards and a Bible.
I remember the Bible. She had a home in Lavonia, Georgia. Her house has since been paved over by infrastructure. Before that, up a steep driveway sat a small, yellow house.
Her driveway circled a dead flowerbed. I inherited my black thumb from her, but I also inherited my love of dogs. At least one tiny chihuahua would meet you, barking.
She, in all of her flair, would come down the steps, about six of them, and meet us in the driveway. She'd stand on her tiptoes and hug our necks, then invite us inside.
The first thing you saw when you opened the door was her Bible, opened to Psalm 23. It is one of my most vivid memories of her house. This is the Bible she left me.
Under her recliner, in the opposing corner of the living room, a grumpy chihuahua, named Baby, would growl at you until you left his presence, or until she dug him out and told him to cut it out.
She wasn't your typical great-grandma. If you asked her, she was twenty-eight, not eighty-two. She kept up with all of the recent fashions and her drink of choice was a vodka and coke, up until she got sick. Then it was blackberry wine.
She had fallen out of bed and cracked her hip. Her injury was complicated by a car accident forty years prior, where she had a rod placed in her bone that was never removed. Her bone had grown over it.
Her doctors decided the best course of action was to remove the rod, meaning her simple hip fracture turned into a surgery, where they broke her femur in two places to remove the rod. This meant she had to stay with my uncle until she recovered.
A few months into her recovery, some x-rays showed an aggressive case of lung cancer that had quickly progressed beyond treatment. Her doctors recommended hospice care.
I'll never forget the day we visited her after her terminal diagnosis. My aunt pulled me aside and told me what she'd said, "My mansion ain't ready yet. He's still painting the walls."
I sat by her bed and held her hand. When her hospice team visited, she introduced me to her boyfriend. Only she would have a boyfriend from her hospice team, during her literal death bed.
When a few weeks passed, she was in and out of sleep. On one of our final visits, I sat on her bedside and held her hand. She said, "I think He's done with my mansion." She died about two days later.
I was only seventeen and her message was lost on me. The older I get, the more I reflect back on moments like this. How brave she was. How unbothered she was. How she insisted that we didn't cry over her. She was ready to meet her creator. She was ready for those gold streets. She was ready for her mansion.
What faith she must have had! She knew she would be leaving her children, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren in God's hands. She knew she could no longer look after us, but she didn't worry. She knew God would look after us.
I reflect on that. Sometimes it's so easy to worry about the smallest things. It's easy to get lost in the noise, lost in the day to day of life. When I start feeling overwhelmed, I like to think about Grandmaw and her mansion. How great must God be for her to leave us all in His hands, without worry? To look forward with excitement to meet her creator in the face of leaving her children behind?
One of these days, when I enter into the gates of heaven, she will be there to hug my neck and bring me home, where there will be a little dog barking under the recliner, a Bible open by the door and a vodka and coke on the table. I'll be home in Grandmaw's mansion.