Pastor, Members of the Clergy, Family and Friends,
I want to say a few words about my grandmother and what she meant in my life.
I have tremendous gratitude for the last four years I spent caring for my grandmother. Many of you have heard me say, it has changed me as a person. Caregiving is not for the weak or faint at heart. And I have become a stronger woman from this experience.
My grandmother was a special lady. What made her so special? I’ll start with her elegance. She always looked the picture of perfection and grace. When she got up in the morning, after she did her morning exercise routine to get her blood flowing, she would get dressed and put on lipstick. She had a closet full of the finest suits and shoes did not leave the house without making sure every hair was in place. That is something that passed on to my mom. One of the seemingly smallest and yet most amazing acts of love I’ve seen my mom display over these last years is that she would iron my grandmothers clothes, even if she wasn’t leaving the house. I hate ironing. But she would make sure that even if she was just putting on a comfortable dress around the house, Vernell looked her best.
Vernell was a devoted wife. My grandfather also had Alzheimer’s. She cared for him at home for as long as she could, and when it got to be too much for her to handle on her own she pursued her only option and placed him in a nursing facility. But please believe she was there every day. Bringing him dinner, feeding him and doing whatever she could to make sure he was comfortable and well taken care of. So much in fact that years later, when she, herself, had a short rehab stay at a different facility, the head nurse pulled me to the side and said she remembered my grandmother. She had worked at my grandfather’s facility and remembered my grandmother coming to visit him every day and that stuck with her for years.
She had a work ethic and drive that was unmatched. From as far back as I could remember she did door to door sales for her business, Vernell’s Apparel. And she did it in a time when there was no Microsoft Excel to keep her customers organized, no electronic databases or accounting software. No cell phones to call her customers and let them know she was on her way. She did it all herself. She had two file boxes that she kept in her car with a card for each customer with their contact information at the top and a ledger of their orders and payments at the bottom. She was the most timely and organized person I know and the human version of Google maps. She could give you directions to get anywhere in Dallas, TX.
She had the definition of what you would call unshakable faith. Even in these last years, when her communication was fading, she remained a prayer warrior. Even when she could not remember my name or my mom’s name she could remember the name of Jesus. And she would call upon it often. And she wouldn’t complain. Through the pain and confusion of her illness she would simply say, “Thank you Jesus”.
My grandmother’s core motivating force was love. Love for God, love for her family and friends and love for helping others. And with love she would give it to you straight. When I first started wearing my natural I would wear it curly, (And I already told you Vernell kept every hair in place) she would say things like… Did you run out of oil for your hair? Or are you going to leave your hair like that? But of course she said it with love.
While I cry tears of sadness because I will miss her. I also cry tears of joy that she is whole again and the ailments of this world are gone. And since she left us on Monday, she has been with me through this entire process. From pre-planning this is entire day before she got sick, to having me run into one of my soloist for today in Walmart earlier this week. I have never seen this man at Walmart in my life, but he was there and I was able to ask him to sing at today’s service. To guiding me through the writing of the text for her obituary in the program today. She is with me. She is with us. She has joined my other guardian angel, my daddy and with them watching over me I have no doubt, that I will be alright.
So it is with love that I say thank you to everyone here. Without you I would not have made it on this journey. My village is STRONG and on behalf of my family we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
And with love I say thank you to my grandmother, Vernell Shorter for setting an example. You shaped who I am and you influenced us all greatly. Thank you for your wisdom, your compassion, your humor, your patience and your love. You indeed broke the mold. Thank you. I love you.