When I think about my grandma, I vividly remember her hands. They were always tan, and they were always offering something – a sandwich, an iced tea, a book of poems, the seat beside her. I remember the way they folded the newspaper and placed it on the braided placemat, slid along the top of the steering wheel on the highway, and pointed at birds in her backyard.
When I met Joyce in Johnson County, TN, her hands were the first thing that reminded me of my grandma. We spent Tuesday morning sitting together on her front porch, and as we spent time talking, I realized that the way she lives her life, the way she relies on faith and lives out love, reminded me of my grandma, too.
While the sound of volunteers cutting wood filled the background, she talked about the different ways she has experienced God. Joyce’s husband, Bill, was a construction worker. Several years ago, there was an accident on site, and he passed away. After talking about how hard life has been since his passing, she began talking about their love. With a smile dimpling her cheeks and lighting up her eyes, she said she fell in love at first sight. The first time she saw him, she was on a date with another boy. She had already decided the boy she was with would only be a friend, and when Bill walked towards her and their eyes connected across the diner, she knew he was the one she was supposed to love. Although she shared pieces of the hard times in their marriage, her stories always circled back to the depth and honesty of their love. Her home, which she has lived in since birth, was the space that held their love for many years. Even though Bill is no longer physically at home, Joyce believes his spirit is still present, which comforts her through his absence.
After I had been on the porch with Joyce for an hour or so, I told her she reminded me of my grandma. Joyce asked me if she had passed, and as said yes, I felt tears rising in my throat. She nodded her head, her lips pursed and her hands folded gently over her knees, and suggested that maybe that’s why I was sitting with her – maybe she was supposed to remind me of all the good things I loved about my grandma. Maybe Joyce’s stories of love and faith were supposed to remind me of my grandma’s stories, and maybe those memories are supposed to remind me what my grandma’s spirit felt like.
I believe people are brought together at certain times and in certain places for a reason. I believe I ended up on Joyce’s porch because something in me needed to meet her, hear her story, listen to her love, and feel reconnected to my grandma. I believe ASP is able to work on Joyce’s home this summer because her home is a reminder of what love feels like, and everyone deserves to remember what love feels like.
Jamie Tews is the Advancement Storytelling Intern this summer writing a weekly blog series titled “This Must Be The Place.” Prior to this summer, she was on staff in Breathitt County, Kentucky in 2016, Leslie County, Kentucky in 2017, and roamed around Appalachia as a staff liaison in 2018. She just graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Writing, and she has plans to pursue an MFA from Emerson College in the fall.