Hens & Chicks, and Chicken & Dumplin’s

Today I am numb. I lost a person who I hadn’t appreciated or visited nearly enough. I lost someone who, despite our times apart, was very close to my heart. She wasn’t my mother, my aunt, or my grandma- but she was my Godmother, and she felt like a combination of all four.

Jan loved her family, her husband, her son, her grand babies, her garden, her crafts, her beautiful crystal vases, her blue U.K. Wildcats Christmas Tree, and her nutcrackers that adorned the shelves of her living room. She loved to laugh, and to make people laugh. She called it like it was, but she had a way of making people like me feel at home, appreciated, and important.

She would take me out for bike rides. She would love to dress me in UK blue. She would camp with my family. She would tell me so many beautiful tall tales. She shared her creativity and craft with me, and patiently worked with my shaky, clumsy hands, until I too, had made something to be proud of. She taught my momma how to cook my favorite meal. She loved to laugh, and her smile lines showed her genuine joy. She almost never wore makeup, but she was one of the prettiest women I knew. She grew her hair out to donate it Locks of Love, because that’s what kind of a caring and compassionate person she was. Not only this, but she let me play with her hair (usually knotting and pulling it) just to make me happy. She would show me her oh-so-perfect winding backyard garden. I know that as long as I live, I’ll never find another garden with as much love and effort put into it by one person. She loved her hens and chicks succulent plants, and she loved to share them with me. She always spoiled me with gifts and fun experiences. The day my dad died, she was the one who picked me up, loved me, and entertained me until it was time to break the news to me. After he was gone, she visited frequently and helped my family with a servant’s heart.

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She was never ‘too old’ to get on the floor and play with me as a child. She was never ‘too old’ for a bike ride. She was never ‘too old’ to go down the water slide with me. She didn’t ignore me when I was little to talk with the other adults. She laughed at my jokes that took too long to tell, and ones that didn’t even have a punchline. As long as I live, I’ll never forget the sweet sound of her laughter. She wasn’t afraid to get silly string all over her house or her hair. She wasn’t afraid to play in the mud with me, and she wasn’t afraid to be herself. She made time for me, even when it wasn’t convenient or cool. She didn’t care about her image, she cared about making everyone else around her happy.

My whole body aches, and I feel an emptiness inside of me. Truly, this is a heartache that I haven’t felt since I lost my dad. I don’t mourn for her leaving this world too early- she lived a happy life, she put more into her 62 years than anyone else ever could, she finally got the grandchildren she always dreamed about, and now she’s made her way to those streets of gold. I don’t hurt for her, I hurt for me. I hurt because I didn’t appreciate her enough. I hurt because I shouldn’t be typing this- I should’ve told her all this when I found out about her cancer. I should’ve thrown my preoccupations to the side for her, as she did for me. But I didn’t. And now I’m left here, with a part of me gone, a piece that I forgot I even had.

Jan was a happy-go-lucky girl, and she would’ve wanted me to be joyous right now, to celebrate her life, and to celebrate our time together.

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Right now I can’t though. I can’t make my heart stop hurting, I can’t make my stomach turn outside in, and I can’t stop thinking about what I wish I had done differently. So, I’m gonna do the next best thing I can. I’m gonna appreciate what is left of my family- and I’m gonna refuse to let myself regret these selfish decisions again. I’m going to tell my people I love them, I’m going to visit more often, and I’m going to learn to drop my preoccupations more, to do what’s most important.

I can’t change my past, but I am going to improve my future. I’m going to be a better person; One who loves harder, digs deeper, gives more, plays harder, and one who will never see a Hens & Chicks plant the same again.