You Would’ve Loved Her Too

Elegant, enchanting and well-spoken.. most called her “Bernie”, some “Queenie”. All of her qualities fit the perfect description of a “Lady”. So that’s what I called her.

Prom queen, Bernadine Kelley, of Morehead Nursing Home.

As a child, Lady’s house was the last place I wanted to go. Her place was filled with fancy white chaise lounges and plenty of breakables that she teasingly had out on display.  I was a 5 yr old who simply knew not to touch anything! This included the decorated marbled eggs, chiming capiz shelled chandeliers, and the life size asian doll made of fish bone.

At age 8, we packed up and moved to NC, with Lady in tow. At that moment, all I could think of was how I’d be constantly force-fed and assigned endless chores. Little did I know how critical she would be to hold our family together.

Lady knew how to intrigue and made an excellent teacher. How do you get kids to memorize scriptures of the Bible? With a challenge, a deadline, and a dollar. My little cousin and I were in such intense study mode.  Still to this day, Psalm 23 is the verse I recite when I’m anxious.

Her sister, son, and grandkids

Lady could strike up a conversation with anyone. As an introvert, I studied her fluidity. If your conversation lasted longer than 15 minutes and it happened to be around the holidays, you can count on her gifting you a lemon bundt-cake for Christmas.

In my pre-teen years, when everything was measured by how cool you are, I thought it was so un-cool when she’d randomly burst in song at church. She’d make her way to the front, hand someone a tambourine, and get the whole church into a Jericho march. Lady knew how to get a crowd going. Secretly, I wanted her courage.

I always thought of my Lady as brave. My bedroom was nestled safely in the center of the house. But I constantly worried of how her corner in-law suite had 3 doors that led to the outside. I asked her one time, if she was scared of someone breaking into one of these doors. “Well baby, if they get me, the Lord got me!” was her response.

Me and my Lady

I’d hear stories of her younger days, when she’d pack up her family and travel the world at the drop of a dime. And how she never returned without a collectable. Slowly, our house turned into a museum; a museum that she painstakingly taught me how to polish every Saturday morning. I grew to hate the smell of lemon “Old English” oil. Its thickness acted as a tattle-tale, letting her knew if a spot was missed. She’d start taking stuff off tables to reveal hidden dust and say her patented phrase, “Don’t be nice/nasty!”.. and then tack on another hour of polishing. I did polish some interesting pieces, though. All of her unique décor and travel stories played a huge part in how I saw the world. Whether it was wanting to be a cruise ship worker or moving 30 minutes from the North Korean border, she supported and bragged on all of my dreams.

Lady stretched out with her sister, in Jamaica

She filled the house with gospel music and threw her own personal service before church on Sundays. This was always the reason why she was the last one ready… that … and her picking out the right feathered hat to match her heels. Lady knew how to piece an outfit together. Even at the nursing home, Lady remained fancy; having her outfits matched up for the week, getting her nails and makeup done. You wouldn’t catch her in a hospital gown in the middle of the day!

Her advice was never really deep. But sometimes a simple “pray about it, baby” is all the advice you need. I always admired her prayers. I silently prayed at night that I could make mine flow as easily, filled with thankfulness, with such care for each individual, and never rushed.

Lady was one of a kind.

She spent her final 4yrs in Morehead Nursing Home. Her constant questioning of when she’d be able to come home was heart breaking. But the care that they provided, the genuine love that she got from nurses and volunteers, and the friendships she made was more than we could hope for her. With every visit, there was a new gift sitting on her desk. Each morning, my grandmother would thumb through her devotional and pick out a scripture to be posted on her door. Random strangers would stop by to read her messages and then she’d make yet another friend. She made her mark on that nursing home as the lady with “The Word of the Day”.

That’s the kind of person my grandmother was. Loving and loved.

Brother showing his grandma some love

She comfortably passed away in the peaceful setting of the hospice, August 29, 2012, with the most diverse cluster of family and guests visiting every 15 minutes.

The family supporting Lady’s “Rock-a-thon” (rocking chair, instead of walking) to raise money for cancer awareness

I am comforted with God’s timing of it all…

These last 2 weeks kind of came as a surprise to us all.

I was technically not supposed to receive a vacation this summer, but I did. I originally wasn’t going to vacation in the U.S., but I did. I wasn’t supposed to be on vacation throughout all of August, but with a few mess-ups from my company, the Visa expeditors, AND the Embassy.. I did. I was supposed to fly out this weekend, and once again, my time was extended. God allowed me to be by her bedside all the way up until her final passing. He’s allowing me to attend her service and reconnect with family members that I haven’t seen in years. Just like her placement in the nursing home, I believe that we all are where we are, when we are, for a reason.. whether we like it or not. And for that, I’m thankful that He dismisses a lot of our plans.

 

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Go Hungry for a Change

I am a Christian living in an Islamic country. It would have been totally ignorant of me to enter Saudi Arabia and not read up on the basics of what Saudi Muslims believe. Without personally knowing a single Muslim, I had to find my information in the most random of places. I browsed blogs, camped-out in Barnes and Nobles, FaceBooked public Saudi profiles. These attempts were made mainly because I try not to offend, if I can help it.. Of course there will be slip-ups; like crossing my legs with the soles of my shoes up, or mentioning how much I’d love a piece of bacon.. but I try to be respectful with the knowledge I’ve acquired so far.

I’ve come to find so much love for two fabulous ladies in this country. One happens to be Muslim and the other Atheist. We make a VERY interesting trio, to say the least .. We all exchange our beliefs and why, but we never end in a heated conversation; always in respect, and often cracking a slight joke in the end. Although none of us will probably ever convert to the other, we are friends who’ve offered and listened to sound opinions, great entertainment, and a have been a shoulder for homesickness. They’re good people, in my book!

Last week was the ending of the Islamic month of Ramadan. I’ve heard of it, but honestly only knew that I’d be vacationing during that time. So, to gain a little understanding on what a good percentage of the world was doing, I interviewed my friend, Amaal, about this time of the year.

1) So what exactly is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a period in which all Muslim adults ‘fast’, or abstain from certain activities. It is one of the five basic tenets/pillars of Islam. It lasts for 30 days, and each day we fast from sunrise to sunset. It’s the month of mercy, blessings and forgiveness. During this time, Muslims are completely immersed in their connection with God. They persevere in doing righteous deeds, pray often and read the Quran (Muslim’s holy book) as much as they can.

2) What must you refrain from?
Food, drink and sexual activity

3) Does it last only certain hours of the day?
Yes, it lasts for a range of hours depending on which country you’re in and what time the sun rises and sets.

4) What is your favorite Ramadan memory?
Ramadan is a beautiful way of bringing family together. I love breaking fast with my family, sitting down all together to eat. I also love going to night prayers. These are special prayers that occur only during Ramadan. You go to the mosque and pray for about an hour, and read chapters of the Quran. This is truly a spiritual booster.

 5) How is Ramadan in Saudi Arabia, in comparison to your home country?
Well I come from England and that is extremely different. Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and therefore it abides by Islamic law. I’ve been in a Muslim Country 3 times for Ramadan and every time it always feels like it’s Ramadan. People are all doing the same thing. They are unified in their worship and acts. People are extremely charitable, they give each other goods, they pay for the needy to be fed in Ramadan, and they share whatever they have. Whilst in Riyadh, what I’ve witnessed consistently is the constant giving of food and water to anyone and everyone. One time I was in a car and we were just about to break fast and people came around to our car window and gave us water and dates. This moved me. I’ve been taught that nothing is free in this world so to be given free food is shocking. But these acts aren’t even one of a kind; they happen constantly throughout the Muslim world.

6) How do you celebrate the breaking of fast?

At the end of the day, we actually mourn the end of fasting because it signifies the end of our spiritual detox. A good Muslim’s heart longs for the next Ramadan to come quickly and prays to see the next one.

At the end of the 30 days, however, we have a celebration called Eid. This is where all families come together, get dressed in their new attire and have a good day out or within their own houses. On the morning of Eid, we go to mosque to pray the ‘Eid prayer’. People exchange greetings and children are given sweets and money. Communities come together and celebrate. We also pay a charitable sum of money on that day. This goes towards feeding the poor and needy.

7) How is the environment around you during fasting and non-fasting hours?
Riyadh is quiet because during fasting hours not much is open. Food outlets in Saudi are usually closed, people stay in their homes and wait for the break of fast. They use their time to involve themselves in acts of worship. The beauty of Ramadan is that it pushes you away from the worldly things that often distract you from worshiping God. So during fasting hours, Muslims are meant to use that time to be productive. Non-fasting hours in Saudi is when everything and everyone ‘wakes up’, so to speak. Shops and restaurants are open, people come out and the city comes to life again.

8) How has normal daily tasks been affected?
Well, people can still go out and shop and go with their daily tasks, the only thing they aren’t allowed to do in a Muslim country is eat in a public place. Pretty much anything else can be done during the day.

9) How are non-Muslims handling it? Have they changed their activity hours?
I’m sure they are finding it hard. They aren’t allowed to eat in a public place, so I guess the less tolerant of them are annoyed. Most non-Muslims are very respectful, though. In fact many are happy because their hours of work are reduced during Ramadan.
10) Now that Ramadan is coming to an end, how do you feel?
In all honesty, I’m upset. This month is like a beloved friend that departs from your house and you must wait another 11 months for its goodness to return. Many think fasting hard and draining but it’s the opposite for a practicing Muslim. Knowing that every deed you are doing is exclusively for God can only make it an easy endeavor. I almost cried at the last sunset, signifying the end of Ramadan. But the celebrations of Eid somewhat eased the pain.

 

 

**I wrote this post, not only to be educational. But also so that different religions can learn to be more  tolerant of others. Many religions practice and find importance in fasting. By knowing the of similarities that we have, perhaps individuals wouldn’t be as quick to judge. With that being said, any disrespectful comments/responses against any religion will be deleted**