Flora Mae McIntyre Smith, (April 25, 1925 – January 11, 1977) a quiet spirit who was never known to say an unkind word about anyone. I am inspired by her sustaining love.
I was blessed to know Grandma Flora for almost 8 years of my life. There are many stories about this stoic woman that I could share: stories about integration, or about her feeding the hobos who knocked on her door when she lived near the railroad line in Kewanee; stories about her “knocking someone down to size” for the crime of trying to shame her children, or about her undying love for her husband; stories about her raising her own children, and also raising her younger siblings after their father died.
Today I will share a story about a moment which I recall spending with her before she passed away.
I remember being in the back of my cousins’ station wagon (replete with 70s faux wood paneling on the side.) Grandma Flora was sitting with us kids in the back of the wagon as my aunt drove us to our destination. My grandmother’s health was failing at the time, but I was too young to comprehend exactly what that meant.
She told me, there in the back of that station wagon, that she would love to see me at 14 years old. What about that age made her request that wish? I was about 7 then. She passed away not too long after that.
My mother decided that I was too young to attend the funeral. In my young mind, I conceptualized her death as her moving to a faraway place where I would never be able to see her again. In that way, she wasn’t really gone, she just existed in a place intangible.
Another lifetime had passed for me between seven and fourteen (all of my years lived times two); and now and then, I would recall her having said to me that she wanted to see me at 14. On my 14th birthday, I waited for her ghost. I was a little afraid, but I really wanted to see her. I kept waiting, intermittently all of my fourteenth year… trying to recall the sound of her breathing, the quiet warmth of her laugh, the glowing light in her smile, the softness of her palms, the slow movement of her gait; checking all of my senses for hints at her presence, listening quietly as I fell asleep at night to see if I could hear her whispering to me that she could see me.
I don’t recall a visit from her. Maybe I was just not able to perceive her quiet presence…
Rest in peace, Grandma Flora. Your unyielding love still lives on in the ones upon whom you shined your radiant light.