My grandmother, Mimi, passed into the Great Beyond on June 6th of 1996. It was the day before my grandson was born. She was always a strong presence in our lives, and she told us that she would let us know how it was “Over There” if it were at all possible.
She was ninety-two, and for all of the years we had with her, she tried to teach us how to be Southern Ladies. Along with that, she told us stories about her life as a child and later she told us about her speakeasy days and what it was like to be a flapper. She was a hot tamale, and even knew Machine Gun Kelly!
Last summer my sister and I, along with our husbands, took a trip to the Deep South.
While in Chattanooga, we visited the area where Mimi grew up. She lived up on Missionary Ridge near Lookout Mountain, across the street from General Bragg’s headquarters. The area and the houses are on the historical registry, so we knew we would be looking at the house, even if we weren’t sure which one it was. We knew the address from the 1910 census but the addresses had been re-configured over the years.
Among the many stories she told us was one of how she would play on what was once a battlefield during the Not-So-Civil-War. She told us that she would be running along and she would suddenly fall into an indentation in the ground. The indentations were graves of fallen soldiers. She said they were all around.
While my sister and I were on Missionary Ridge we retold these stories to our husbands, although they had heard them before. We photographed all of the houses hoping to someday find someone who knows what the addresses were before they changed them. We later found the graves of Mimi’s mother and her sister, who both died over a hundred years ago.
We had spent the day steeped in Mimi’s life. That evening when the guys turned the car off and went inside the hotel to get our rooms for the night, Barbie and I decided we’d wait in the car. We were perched in the third seat of our rental car and had the middle seat folded down for our footrest, way too comfy to move. We were talking softly about the day and Mimi’s colorful life. The radio suddenly came on and played a chorus from a Don Williams song;
“Until the sun falls from the sky,
‘Til all the seas run dry,
‘Til life on earth is through,
I’ll be needing you.”
And then it went silent.
We looked at each other. Our eyes were wide with surprise and then instantly overflowing with tears. We knew we’d just heard from Mimi. How else could the radio come on when the key wasn’t even in the car?
It wasn’t the first time she had contacted me. The first time was while I was waiting for my grandson to be born. His mother, (my daughter) had contracted chicken pox at the beginning of her third trimester. During a lull in the contractions, I had my eyes closed worrying about the baby.
Mimi said, “It’s going to be all right.” My eyes flew open to see if anyone else in the room had heard her clear, strong voice. No one had. Just me.
And when the baby was born it was all right, just like Mimi had promised.