Friday, January 18, 2013

RIP, Jeannie Hardin

This morning, my mama, Jeannie Hardin, passed away after a long and wonderful life.  She will be missed by everyone who knew and loved her because she was a dear, dear soul.

Last summer, she and my papa had their 70th wedding anniversary.  So many friends and family got to celebrate with them, including folks that I had not seen in years and years.

They loved being able to take that walk down memory lane and to see everyone.  That was especially true for Mama, who was dressed in the most beautiful purple chiffon-trimmed suit for the occasion, and beaming from ear to ear.

Mama, along with my Granny Verta Bell Frazer, taught me to bake and to love to cook.  Bless them both for that gift, it has brought me much comfort and joy throughout my entire life, and I think of both of them every single time I begin to cook a meal.

For both my grandmothers, feeding your family well meant that love was always your first ingredient in anything you were making.

I can remember standing on my mama's step-stool in her kitchen, pouring ingredients into her Kitchen Aid stand mixer, helping her make pies and cookies.  She always had a tiny apron at the ready for me to wear, and never complained when I wanted to sample the batter.  From the time I was tiny, hanging out with my grandmothers in the kitchen and helping to cook was always one of my favorite things in the world -- the laughter and love I learned in their kitchens is something I carry with me to this day.

I try to add that same measure of love in as an ingredient in everything I make for my own family now.

My mama and papa gave me my set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books for Christmas one year, and it was a life-changing read for me.  I still treasure that same, time-worn set and read it for comfort when the world tips off kilter now and then.

Growing up, my papa was a Methodist minister.  He and mama traveled around a lot, as he was moved from church to church through the years, never completely putting down any roots in the form of a home of their own until he retired as a full-time pastor a little over 20 years ago.  But every time they moved to a new parish, the sterile walls of the newest parsonage house would instantly become a home after Mama got finished setting around her hand-crocheted doilies and knick knacks and setting up all the bookshelves full of books here, there and everywhere.

I come from a family of readers, and unpacking those books every time they moved was a sacred moment every single time.

The Peanut loved her great-grandparents.  And they loved that we finally had gotten our miracle in having her, after all our long years of trying.  For all those years, Mama would say to me every time she saw me, "I prayed for your miracle to come, and I have faith that she will."

She was right, as usual.

It was her time:  the last few months, Mama had become very frail and everything inside her had begun to slow and wear down.  She has been in and out of the hospital more times than I can count since last summer, and had begun to be weary of fighting to keep moving forward.  At 90+, that happens, and while it does make her loss a much more understandable one, even a mercy for so many reasons given how hard the last few months have been on her, it is still a tough morning at our house.

While she may have passed away, Mama will live on in my heart, and the hearts of everyone who knew her.  And her spirit will still imbue my kitchen for the rest of my days with the lessons I learned as a small child, licking batter off a spoon and giggling with my mama as I learned to make spritz cookies at Christmas or chocolate cream pie or so many other delicious goodies that I cannot even count them. 

I'll miss you, Mama, and will think of you with love always. 

(Photo by Christy Hardin Smith.  All rights reserved.)

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