When we finally pulled up at mom's house the day of Mamaw's visitation, we piled our bags in the keeping room and all landed in mom's bedroom. Audrey and Anna were pulling out my old dance costumes and Lottie was rolling and smiling all over the palette mom had laid out for her. There were Mamaw's three great granddaughters - so full of life and youth, energy and giggles - surrounding mom, Moll, and myself as mom told us of Mamaw's last moments. About the peaceful way she left her earthly home with her daughter holding her hand, by her side like she always had been. In that moment I felt so proud to be a part of that line of mothers and daughters. And in that moment life didn't seem so gradual. We had experienced an ending. And with my precious six month old wiggling on the floor in front of me, the juxtaposition between life and death felt severe, heavy.
During visitation and the funeral, there was a lot of talk about Mamaw's love. It was a love of life and of people. It was spilled onto friends and family and strangers alike. It wasn't just something you say because someone died. She had an above average amount of love, and it was evident to everyone we spoke to over those couple of days. We heard "life of the party" a lot. That was so true. But she also loved us in the quiet, every day moments. Through comfort, through prayers, through food (really good food). It was so strange to be with our very large extended family (my mom is the youngest of 23 first counsins, daughters and sons of my grandmother's eight siblings), and Mamaw not be there. Because of her very large presence, she was easily missed. A Loyce-sized hole, some might say. It made me think a lot about the same thing that their long time pastor mentioned at the funeral - legacy. A legacy of love, simply put. And how desperately I want to continue that legacy - through comfort, prayers, food. Through how I raise my babies and support my husband. Through how I celebrate my friends and love every moment of life I've been given. "I just love this living," she would say. It showed.
Moll and I said a few words at her funeral. We're criers, so it was touch and go. But we knew we wanted everyone to know how much we loved our Mamaw. I added mine below so you could know a little of Mamaw Loyce too.
I’m Meagan – Mamaw’s fifth grandchild and self-proclaimed favorite. Most of my family and friends call me Meg, but my favorite nickname – usually only heard at the occasional family reunion or kinfolk shower – is Little Loyce. It’s probably the Fallin coloring, but I sure hope that I can – at least some day – live up to the name.
My Mamaw Loyce embodied the phrase “to know her is to love her.” And it sure didn’t matter if you knew her all your life or if it was a matter of minutes. There was never an outing where she didn’t make a new friend – from waiters to cashiers to stewardesses. It was natural and it was effortless because it was Mamaw. I’ll never forget asking her how one of her stints in physical therapy was going. She told me that that day had been better than others because some else was actually in the therapy room at the same time she was, and when she walked in she thought, “Oh look, somebody for me to talk to!”
I have a six month old baby girl. I thank the Lord for His gracious timing – that their precious lives overlapped and that Mamaw was able to love on her several times in her young life. That someone so dear to me was able to share in our excitement and joy at the birth of her third great granddaughter. And I thank Him that I had a grandmother who created such a legacy of love in our family. She walked with Jesus, and we were blessed by His love that Mamaw showed us. Because of Christ in Mamaw, I know what steadfast love looks like – it is firm, never-changing. It was the look on her face or the sound in her voice every time we visited or called. It was her consistent presence in our lives. It was so deep and fierce that its effects will outlive her and effect many future generations. I may never be able to make her hot water cornbread, but I hope and I pray that I can be a fraction of the mother, wife, sister, church member, friend, and – one day – grandmother that she was. And I hope, like Mamaw, that I have the time of my life doing it.