We knew we were close to our destination. Streets followed names such as Bayou Drive…buildings were constructed on stilts around the levees…restaurants utilized vintage boats for dining rooms….and the air was thick with humidity and odor. The odor hung everywhere …the hotel, Starbucks…everywhere… as if the entire area was sitting inside of an auto mechanic’s garage. In the dark, the oil refineries glisten as Oz’s Crystal City does, but they represent reality not fiction. This is where you find hard working people performing tough, unpleasant jobs to put food on the family table. Most are proud of their work and happy to have a job.
This is where I really met Linda, but sadly, it was to say goodbye. I actually met Linda in June 2011 when she came to watch my daughter marry her son. As most weddings are, it was a whirlwind weekend with little time to really sit and get to know one another. I knew she had not been well and she leaned heavily on me as we walked the steps together to light the Unity Candle for the joining of our two families. Yet, in that brief moment, I held a strong hand and sensed the pleasure she had to see her son wed. At that brief moment, we were mothers and women rejoicing together.
But, this week, through the eulogies of her children, I met an amazing woman. She was strong, tough, courageous, determined, calloused in some ways by life, yet tender in her love for family. Here are some moments in her life which are now seared into mine:
As a very young woman, she was waitressing near the ship channel. One night a crew of Greek sailors came in for dinner. They were taken with her European-type beauty and asked if she were Greek. “Maybe so.” They invited her to join the crew as a ship’s cook and go with them to Greece. She ran home and told her mom that she had a new job and was on her way. This lead to adventures around Greece and the Mediterrean. I now understand my son-in-law’s desire to have adventures and see the world.
But, an abusive marriage would leave her with four young children on her own. In and out of the women’s shelters and a beat up trailer, she provided for them through hard labor at a chemical plant. No, not answering phones as many women did. Linda would put on a hard hat and steel toed boots to do the traditional man’s labor at the plant. During cold weather, she had to stuff newspaper into the boots to keep her feet warm.
This motivated her though to go to college and become a nurse. She taught her children the importance of hard labor and of an education. She taught them to love history and poetry. She taught them to love family and making right decisions.
Fortunately, she found love in a good man and he not only embraced her…but also embraced her children and became DAD.
Linda would live to beat Stage Four Cancer. Then, a heart attack literally took her life. The family was told she was gone. But, as nurses moved her body, her heart began to beat and she returned to live for years. That was when her youngest son would record important answers to questions like, “What would you do different with raising your kids.” He played those answers from her own voice at the funeral. He also read the letter he wrote after he became an attorney about the lessons and encouragement she gave him which led him to law school.
Linda is the kind of woman this blog is all about. Women of strength and dignity. I met her for the first time this week, but I was left longing for more time and regretting we did not get it. She was strong beyond belief and her children and grandchildren will also have that strength for their legacy. I celebrate it, and I celebrate Linda and her family. This strength and determination to persevere no matter the odds is what makes me so blessed to be a woman.
How do you define strength? Do you believe you have it inside of you? If you need someone to come alongside of you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be happy to give encouragement. No matter what you face….you have the strength!
|Red jacket: Marshalls|
Cynthia Rowley Grey T: Marshalls
Black knit skirt: Talbots
Bandolino Flats: DSW
Necklace and Bracelet: Stein Mart
Have a wonderful Thursday and make sure you visit the talented bloggers of KATIE'S FAVORITE THINGS BLOG HOP on Thursday!