Mema

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Time has a funny way of sneaking up on you. Sometimes I feel like I’m so busy that I can’t remember important dates. Some always stick out though–like July 11. Six years ago today, my grandmother, Betty Jo Nance (“Mema” to me and her other grandchildren) died after a very sudden downturn in health. I suppose she had suffered enough heartbreaks, and her body and mind decided they had enough.

Mema was strong, stubborn, intelligent, and above all, a protector. She was determined to make sure her family stayed safe and that they had all of the help they needed to make it in this world. Having the self-inflicted stress of being the “protector” meant that she was not always the happiest person, but she was oh so proud–of all of her family.

Growing up, Mema had just the right balance of kindness and toughness that a child needed, and as you got older, the toughness increased. She expected a lot out of you, but she made it known when you did well (and also when you did not so well). She loved her children, grandchildren, and one great-grandchild very deeply, and seeing their success and sharing in their lives is what kept her going, what really made her tick.

When she left us, it truly did feel like losing a matriarch. She seemed to be the “head” of the family. I often wonder what she would think about me and my life now–I’m sure she would think I was crazy for moving to a large city with a gun violence problem (love you, Chicago!), but at the same time, I think she would appreciate the boldness. Without her in my life, I don’t know how much of that boldness I would have had.

Thank you, Mema, for being just the right balance of what this girl needed in a grandmother.

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