Her Living Garden
Someone once told me that grandmas are special lights in our life. I don’t think my grandma, Teresa Bernadette Hicks, was a light. She was the sun. A bright, burning star in the sky that gave each and every one of us warmth and comfort. Her love radiated so effortlessly from her heart and was something you could immediately sense if you were in her presence.
I have doubted myself continuously in writing this remembrance. How do you bring proper justice and honor to someone so magnificent, so special, with mere words? But that’s just the thing. My grandma wouldn’t have wanted an elaborate speech. She was a woman of simplicity, who enjoyed spending time in her garden, tending to her flowers and plants with delicate care, much as she did with our own family. We were her garden, and she did everything she could to help us flourish, but instead of water and fresh soil, she tended us with encouragement, wisdom and compassion.
8 children, 20 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, 13 great-great-grandchildren, and even more extended family members and friends, too many to count. That is her legacy. Us, all here, are her legacy. It is our job to keep her alive in our hearts and our minds by sharing our memories with her to our loved ones, those we meet in this life and even reminding ourselves of these stories, to ensure that we too don’t forget. Which, I think, is impossible anyway. How do you forget someone like my grandma? The hole that I, and many others, have in our lives now is gaping. Her absence is profoundly tangible, a big and black empty space. I think it will be like that forever. But, the good news is, we can fill this hole, this loss, by doing everything we can to carry her legacy forward. By living as she did. By sharing stories whenever we gather together again. By honoring her in our actions and the lives we lead going forward.
We are all imperfect people, but my grandma was as close to perfection as someone could be. She was slow to anger, quick to love and always put others above herself, bearing the burdens of others even when it took a toll on her. She was a devout Catholic, never missing Church even when life threw obstacles in her way. She shared a beautiful love with my grandpa, a love that is unbreakable, even in death. My grandpa told me that my grandma wanted to leave this earth holding his hand, asking God to take them both at the same time if He could.
One of my favorite things was hearing all the stories from her earlier life. While I was lucky to share many memories with her, especially when I was younger, it is important to remember the full life she had from birth until death. A life of perseverance, determination, loyalty, joy and beauty.
After my grandma passed, I asked her eight children to share a word with me that they thought described their mom the best, and an example from their times with her to go along with it. I want to share these with you today because I think memories are a mirror of who we are as humans.
Stubborn — My mom hated to go to the doctor. One time, she fell and hurt her foot and ankle and it immediately swelled, yet she said she still didn’t need to go. Finally, almost a week later, we got her to go and we found out her foot was broken in three places.
Gentle strength — Times were tough. My mom was alone with me and my two sisters. I remember having chicken for dinner and mom only ate what was left after we were done eating. She washed tomatoes with cracked and bleeding hands to make money for our family, and I never heard one complaint leave her lips. As I got older, I wanted a pair of Levi jeans and mom gave me $4 to start, even though she didn’t have to. She did anything she could to make sure we were happy and healthy.
Content — My mom didn’t need stuff. No fancy dinners, exotic vacations or expensive cars. My mom was happiest when she stayed home, watering her flowers and mowing her grass. She could spend hours in her yard. When the work was done, she would sit in her gazebo and reap the benefits. This was a perfect day in my mom’s life.
Unselfish — When we had dinner as a family growing up, she always made sure we ate before her so there was enough food.
Loving provider — Most families have financial ups and downs, especially when raising 8 kids. One year, factories were closing, downsizing and laying off workers at a fast pace. Our family was hit hard. As Christmas approached, all us kids thought there would be no presents that year. Christmas morning came and we all went to the family room as normal. Mom handed us each one gift. She told us all to open our gifts at the same time. She made each one of us a photo scrapbook of our lives, from baby pictures to that current year. It was the best present I had ever received, except the one picture with me dressed as Peter Pan in the high school play. The amount of effort and love she put into each book was incredible. Mom always had a way to lovingly provide us with everything we needed. Over 40 years have passed, we’ve moved many times, but I always know where that special Christmas gift is. Mom was simply amazing.
Faithful — Mom was always faithful to the church. She never stopped going to mass, even in the 30 years she wasn’t able to receive Holy Communion or during the pandemic, as she was able to watch online or on TV. She was also faithful and had an unending love for her family. She always did little things with great love and made sure everyone always had a special gift for birthdays, Christmas, and Easter (not to mention her delicious and beautifully decorated sugar cookies) She received great joy in these actions…as we did too. We know and trust in God’s faithfulness and promises too. Mom is now resting in eternal joy in true heavenly love, and in the outstretched hands of our most loving Father. God has assured us of this, as he called mom home on the Feast Day of St. Terese, the Little Flower, which was her Patron Saint.
Selfless — Never in her life did she not put her family’s needs before herself. She taught me how to be a loving and caring mother. When I walked off the plane from Guatemala after months away with Charlotte and Matthew, I went right up to her for a hug and said, wow mom, how did you raise 8 kids? Her response was “how did you do what you just did?” That’s how she was, she never would take credit for anything, selfless.
Loving — She always thought of others first. She always had a unique themed birthday cake for everyone’s birthday and made sure they felt special. She was always there for me and even traveled to Columbus when I delivered both of my babies. She was happy when her kids were happy.
I could go on and on about the beautiful person Teresa Hicks was. She, undoubtedly, was the backbone of our family. Our guiding light. What I would give to cuddle with her on her favorite chair one more time. The same one that I would crawl into when I was a kid as she read the morning paper and sipped on her coffee. The memories we have are what bond us together forever. Those many hot summer days at Walden Lake where she taught me to swim. The time I saw her take her false teeth out and I was terrified my grandma had morphed into a monster. Dinners at the food court in the mall, where she would let me pick out any food I wanted. Watching VHS movies together even though she had seen them millions of times before. Hearing about her progress in the Silver Sneakers classes, which can we just take a second to appreciate her commitment to her health and fitness? She was probably more in shape when she was 80 than I am now. I remember the sound of her voice when she hummed, as she did her miscellaneous tasks. I’m sure you’re humming up there in Heaven now. These memories, and many more, wrap themselves around my heart, almost as if she’s giving me one of her hugs that I swear could cast away any amount of darkness and bring a smile to any face.
Without a doubt, I am the woman I am today because of you, grandma, and I will spend every moment of my life making you proud. It hurts, knowing you aren’t physically here anymore, but I promise to carry you in my heart throughout the duration of my life. The love you had for me, your family and friends was always something I wanted to emulate. I know your light is shining down on us, even if we can’t see it. I feel you here today, and will never let go of that feeling. I love you an extraordinary amount. I hope you are resting now because you deserve it more than anyone.
We all love and miss you so much, grandma. You remain with us in spirit now and are watching over us all as our guardian angel. This isn’t a goodbye, but a see you later for now.
I don’t think your name has to be in history books to be of great importance. You made tidal waves in our lives. You taught all of us how to love, to look out for each other. We can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done and we promise to keep our family, your garden, alive and blossoming. Thank you for this beautiful family. From all of us, we love you.