She would have been 107 this month

Ethel Lee Culbreth Brakefield – Happy 107 in Heaven on Nov. 28!!

My grandmother, Mama, lived to be 105. She passed away the January before Covid hit and thankfully didn’t have to deal with any of that. It is funny, we all worried about her health all the time and she never really seemed to. She didn’t really consider death, from what I could tell, even after she passed the century mark. She was up for whatever God’s will happened to be for her. I know 105 is old, but I still feel like I lost her too soon. This is what I wrote on Facebook when we lost her:

My family and I have been so very fortunate to have had this wonderful woman a part of our lives for so very long. We are also so blessed to be able to say 105 years doesn’t really feel like long enough! I am so comforted by the little bit of time I spent with her these past few weeks as she reminded me several times that “God is good, God is so good” and that she has felt incredibly blessed to have her daughters, her girls, take such excellent care of her.

She was ever thankful, always seeing her blessings. She had a genuinely positive attitude and when I once cried in her lap she reminded me that I am loved and that I would be alright – and I immediately felt her peace and believed it because she believed it.

She raised my mom and my mom loves and cares for our family in much the same way Mama did, fiercely believing in each of us. . . only maybe without so much baking 😜.

Thank you, Mama, for . . .

  • Not ever using the switch you made Beth and I go get for you when we were being annoying.
  • Letting us “explore” the treasure in your garage whenever we wanted.
  • Telling us to appreciate the invention of the washer and dryer because you remembered when it had to be done by hand and you could assure us it is the one invention we want to keep.
  • Telling us stories of what it was like to grow up on a farm in Webb County, Alabama in the early 1900’s (dirt yards, community get togethers to make lye soap for the month, and being upset still in her 90’s at the neighbor children who poked the eyes out of her first ever baby doll (it had the marvelous eyes with weights so it would close its eyes when she laid it down), not knowing about the Great Depression because they “was already depressed” and so many more. . .)
  • Making me drive you to South Alabama when I was barely 15 in your HUMONGOUS Crown Victoria (I am still a nervous wreck and my knuckles go white just thinking about it) and gently correcting me in your sweet voice like we are not about to die every minute through Birmingham rush hour traffic . . .
  • Marrying my next door neighbor, Jack, and making him Papa Jack. He was a blessing to our family.
  • Teaching me how to bake the most incredible pound cake.
  • Showing me that it is important to volunteer in my community.
  • Showing me that it is important to be gracious and thankful to those who take care of me.
  • Making sure I knew your family, my extended family in Ashford, because family is everything.
  • Showing me that strong women are a blessing to our family . . .

I am sure I will spend the rest of my life blessed by the lessons I never realized you taught me.

November 28, 1914 – January 14, 2020

I read over this now, nearing the second birthday/Thanksgiving without her, and it fills me with such love and gratitude for having had this loving woman as a part of my life for as long as I did. It also makes me realize that I did not spend nearly enough time with her. I did not take advantage of the time we were gifted.

I mention above crying in her lap. What I didn’t mention is that this was the day that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my marriage was over. I went to her house sat next to her in her big comfy chair, I laid my head in her lap and just cried. She stroked my hair and reminded me of God’s love for me and of the strengh I could find in Him. Her faith was so strong. Her faith could have moved mountains. I want to be like her. I want to have that kind of faith in our God and her kind of surrender to His will. I am working on it. This spiritual journey of mine is intense which I guess is why I am writing about it more and more. It is spilling out in the wake of the summer.

I will end this post with a handwritten note for me found among Mama’s things.

Dear Bonnie –

May God bless and keep you safe all of your years. Trust in Him always for all your needs and help. He is always near (never sleeps).

I love you, Mama

Thank you, Mama. I love you.

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