When my maternal grandmother—Leda Mabry Flatt– passed away in May of 2006, and since I inherited the Flatt family gift of gab, my mother asked me to speak at the service. I was struck with, “What can I say at my granny’s funeral?” Each of my family members would have different memories that we could share of “Granny Flatt.” (She was “Granny,” not “Grandmother,” or “Nana” or any other term to us four grandchildren and the ten great-grandchildren; it was just “Granny.” You do know, that the Latin root of the word “granny” means, “one that can belch with the best of ‘em.” She emboldened the term, and she was worthy of being called a “granny.” )
So, after a recent conversation with a close friend, I thought, “ I need to share in a written form those words I spoke at my grandmother’s funeral.” Perhaps it will encourage you, and remind us all of the legacies we create with every decision we make.
Some of my favorite memories of Granny also include my granddaddy Allen Flatt, who passed away when I just 15. I remember the sweet smell of a Tennessee evening; it smelled so different from the Florida one I was used to as a child.
I remember eating snow cream… playing with keys from a key-making rack that was on the porch of one of their homes… catching fireflies and putting them in a mason jar… hitting my head on the hitch of Granddaddy’s truck… and eating Granny’s pumpkin pies which I loved. I remember her making biscuits; I don’t remember if they tasted good, I just remember her making them. And, of course, the most important memory of all which, I pray, has been preserved for other generations to witness via video, is Granny’s unnatural ability to touch her nose with her tongue!
As I grew older, and Granddaddy got sick, they came to live in Florida, and I saw her often. She stayed with me a few times when Mom and Dad went out of town for a night or two. One vivid memory is that of my returning home from Daytona Beach with the worst sunburn of my life. Mom and Dad were gone, but she was staying with me. She cared for me that night and until they returned the next day. I was a grouch, but she still loved me.
Another vivid memory is of my visiting her in her apartment. I hurt her feelings (which was not all that hard to do), not sure what I did…more likely it was something I said…but I knew I had done it, and I felt bad. And I remember her “letting me have it,” verbally. And, since I had been a jerk, I knew I deserved it.
Even in the midst of dementia, there were moments, most of which my mom experienced when she suddenly and momentarily was herself again. I got to witness a couple of those moments, too. One was with my girls and her calling them “sweet” and “Sugarfoot.” That simple word “Sugarfoot” brings tears to my eyes, even as I write this. We grandchildren, all no doubt, have the same reaction when hearing that granny-ism. To have her call my children “Sugarfoot”—even when she wasn’t “herself” was a proud moment for me as a grandson and father.
An illustration often given at the time of someone’s passing is the example of the dates on the tombstone, the birth date, and the death date… that between those numbers is a “dash” –the most important part. That dash, and what was created during that time, really is the most important. It is true, of course, with my grandmother—my Granny– too. That dash on her tombstone represents a full life. But the other day I heard an even better example to describe life:
Many of us have seen old men sitting around talking, whittling, …a perfect portrait of a southern town, old men in front of a store, or better yet, barber-shop, whittling. For hours, sitting there whittling, creating piles of shavings in the process. And after all the whittling, most times nothing has been created. It’s just that whittling gives them something to do while they talk. I think that’s why we have the phrase “whittling your life away.” They have taken something and created nothing. Then there are those who carve. Carving. Those who take nothing, and create something. Something beautiful, remarkable, many times—just plain amazing. Whittling versus carving.
From the back roads of rural Tennessee, Leda Mabry Flatt created something from her life. Even though I’m sure there were many moments in her life when she felt as if she was just whittling; she wasn’t. Through sorrow and heartache, through joy and love, she was carving. Shaping. Creating. She was carving a legacy.
She did not leave a fortune for our family to fight over. No possessions to covet. But, also, thank the Lord, she did not leave a life full of addictions or abuse or shame or regret or hurt or alcoholism, or hate or pain or broken-heartedness, or generational sin—to fight from. No, she didn’t leave anything to fight over. Nor, thank goodness, did she leave anything to fight from. But she left a whole lot to fight for. She left love.
Love carved from a deep belief in a risen Savior. Love that sustained a marriage, two children, four grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.
Love worth fighting for.
She could have given up, or given in. She lost her mom when she was just 17. Many years later, her father was killed by a speeding drunk driver who never was convicted of his crime. I’m sure she wasn’t the perfect wife, nor perfect mother, either. She and Granddaddy often moved because of his work. In the last years, they didn’t even own a home. She never learned to drive a car. (Actually, I think there’s something classy about not being able to, nor want to drive.) She didn’t give up. She didn’t give in. She kept carving.
I sit right here, at this moment, because of her. And her willingness to keep going.
So, what I am reminded of today, and perhaps you, too, should think about, is, are you carving something incredible out of your life? Something that will have meaning when people look at that dash on your tombstone? Or are you just whittling your life into a legacy of nothingness?
We all will leave a legacy. What kind is up to us. Will we create nothing out of something, or keep the faith and create something out of nothing?Will we create nothing out of something, or keep the faith and create something out of nothing. Click To Tweet
Proverbs chapter 20, verse 7, tells us that “The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them.” As a mom, dad, grandad, grandmother, or even granny, I pray that you allow Christ to guide you in a life filled with righteousness and integrity!
Sharing His Wonder,