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They will remember you in 'Grammy's Garden'

Anyone that says you marry an individual not their family obviously has never been married, or at least their spouse has no ties to relatives. Immediately bad implications of interfering in-laws come to mind, but this is not always the case. Many positive and endearing relationships form when families’ children join in marriage.
Our lives were forever enriched when my daughter, Brittany, and Jake Dorman tied the proverbial knot almost six years ago. Not only have we grown to love our son-in-law as one of our own, but his family has touched us and become a part of us, too. Especially his mother, Leta.
Although I knew Leta slightly through her part ownership in Cook’s Cafeteria which we frequented often and where my daughter was a waitress during her high school years, it was not until our kids started dating that we became well acquainted. We joked as time went on about Jake hanging around the restaurant in the evenings offering to help clean up after hours without pay. He was working at that time at Harris Teeter and Brittany suddenly became quite concerned that we might not have enough milk for breakfast or bread for sandwiches. It took two rather oblivious mothers weeks to see a romance brewing. In the meantime, Leta’s staff budget at Cook’s was in the black and my fridge and pantry were well stocked.
Eventually our offspring overcame their shyness and the two were together constantly. If Jake was not at our house, they were both at his home or at least on the phone together. With Brittany’s senior prom coming up, she wanted both Leta and me to go with her shopping for her dress. That day I begun to realize how much I had in common with this woman I came to respect and admire. We exchanged stories of our kids’ childhoods, shared our dreams for their futures and talked about our mutual faith and love of God. We laughed together when the lady in the dress shop asked Brittany if she wanted something slinky and sexy or fairy tale princess. We laughed again when we both heard the other breathe a loud sigh of relief as Brittany went for fairy tale style.
As it has a tendency to do, time sped on and we found ourselves on another shopping trip, this time for a wedding dress. Our conversation turned to our babies leaving home, how well suited Jake and Brittany were for each other, and, of course, future grandchildren. This time we cried together when she stood before us in the perfect dress. Leta’s words of, “That’s the one,” summed up all our feelings.
While our families planned a wedding, both Leta and her mother began a long battle with cancer, Leta with breast cancer; her mother with a terminal brain tumor. The wedding date was moved from the following spring to just a few weeks away in November in hopes that Jake’s grandmother could attend and share in the joy of their day. God had other plans, however, and she passed away shortly before their wedding. His grandfather attended their household shower in his wife’s absence to honor her desire to be there. Brittany’s papaw joined him so he wouldn’t be alone in a roomful of women. Their conspicuous male presence surrounded by chattering females was a touching show of genuine respect unlike any I’ve witnessed.
If not for the telltale signs of the chemotherapy that were taking a toll on her body, one would have never known of Leta’s own struggle with cancer during the wedding festivities. Not allowing anything to divert attention from the happy couple, she insisted this was their time and their spotlight. I marveled at her strength and determination to safeguard her family’s joy. I gave her hugs and tried to say all the right things that never came out of my mouth the way they were supposed to. I did my best to be supportive and encouraging, all the while silently wondering if I had it in me to be so selfless in the face of suffering. We talked and we prayed and we cried together. And my own faith grew as I found myself leaning on this amazing woman I had come to love like a sister.
A couple years went by and once again Leta and I were sharing an experience with our children. Tears ran down our faces as we caught the first glimpses of our grandson via ultrasound. We both walked into the doctor’s office as “Mom” but came out a short time later as “Grammy” and “Nina.” Our lives were forever transformed in a way that only fellow grandparents can comprehend. And the little fellow that had instantly captured our hearts strengthened the bond that we already shared.
Three years and another grandson later brought the devastating news that Leta, like her mother before her, had developed a brain tumor. Always an optimist, but also a realist, she would not subject her family to surgeries and treatments that would only prolong everyone’s agony. Leta died last spring exactly as she had lived. Courageous. Dignified. Selfless. Deeply committed to and embedded in her faith in Jesus Christ.
One of the many things that Leta and I shared was a love for gardening. And one of the big things we shared was our love for our grandsons, Nathaniel and Carson.
When springtime’s sun breathes new life into the earth, I will be there, my friend, with our grandchildren. We will dig our bare fingers into the cool, rich mountain soil. We will watch in wonder as daffodils push their way into the fresh April air and unfold their nodding, yellow heads in the sunlight. We will dance in the rain and bury our faces in the sweet aroma of lilacs blooming in the yard.
And you will be there with us, because while we play and while we work, I will tell them stories of Grammy and your love for them. I will fill their minds with memories of you and I will lead them on the path of faith that you walked and plant and nurture the seeds that will mark their way Home some day. I will keep you alive in their hearts. They will remember you…in “Grammy’s Garden.”