Behind the Smile

August 12th, 2014 / For when I am weak, then I am strong ~2 Corinthians 12:10 / Behind the Smile post

“For when I am weak, then I am strong”. ~2 Corinthians 12:10

After the loss of Robin Williams, it got me thinking about the demons that some people battle within themselves.

Growing up, I was unbelievably close to my maternal grandmother. She was the one person in my life that I felt I could always rely on & who loved me unconditionally. I wrote her letters, poems, and drew her pictures constantly. I talked with her on the phone as much as I could & loved to stay with her as much as time allowed. I especially loved when my two aunts (her sisters) stayed with us also! I was blessed with my full of life aunt, who loved to dance, sing, gamble & just had a way of making everything fun, my other aunt, who was well grounded, full of a dose of realty & honesty, very loyal, and who you could rely on to make some amazing food, and my grandmother, who had a loving, free-spirited, unselfish, kind soul, and they, all three, radiated love & kindness & made me feel special & like I belonged. My memories of dancing, singing, laughing, garage saleing, going to church, praying, cooking & eating, hold strong in my mind & were some of my happiest childhood memories!

I also looked very forward to the family gatherings & holidays at her house. My grandmother could cook like nobody’s business (as most of the women in our family) & our family gatherings were always filled with the most mouth-watering foods imaginable! The memorable days consisted of the children running around playing, the men watching a game or playing cards while drinking beer, and the women (my grandma, aunts, mother, cousins & I) preparing & cooking food all day (mostacciolli & meatballs, Italian beefs, lasagna, spaghetti, ham, turkey, homemade breads, pies, cakes, spreads, dip, potato salads..and the list goes on) so we could all enjoy this amazing feast & our time together!

My grandmother had a way of making things seem okay, no matter what the family dysfunctions, no matter what issues were going on..she put on a smile, set out to bring peace, serve & please!
My grandmother was my confidant, protector, mentor, reason, and idol…she was the wind beneath my wings! I loved her bright soul & her beautiful smile. I loved how faithful she was! That, no matter where they moved, she would walk (she didn’t have a driver’s license until a couple of years before she passed away) to the nearest church, in any & all kinds of weather, praise God & give her little bit of change she had saved & put it into the offering. She, also, used to read her big, worn out Bible (riddled with highlights, notes, and tattered pieces of paper with her thoughts on them sticking out of it) religiously. She always recited her favorite verses to me. She would express her strong faith to me and we would discuss the rapture and how amazing we thought it would be.
She always brought peace to my soul & love to my life ❤

When I was 13, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and the treatments made her unbearably ill. I could remember her laying on the couch with her bald head on a pillow & her beautifully styled auburn wig on the table next to her Bible, throwing up & barely able to lift her head. And yet, she still would find the strength to smile at me, tell me how much she loved me, and talk about how good God was.

I also remember when my grandfather got cancer, how she would wait on him hand & foot (no matter how sick she would be), as she ran back & forth to the bathroom to throw up. Yet she never complained, she always put everyone else first no matter how she felt.
At this point, I was not so happy with God for putting my best friend, my angel, my strength through all of this! Why her? Why put this amazingly loving woman, who is a saint in my eyes, who never complained, never hurt anyone, and was always doing for everyone else through such a heart shattering illness?!
It completely devastated my heart & my faith, and I couldn’t bear to see her suffer, to see her weak & frail, and to see her so very ill.

While she was ill, I would go stay with her during the weekends & some of the summer to help her & be with her. During that time, we talked allot about me growing up, she gave me sound, faithful advice & she made me a promise..that she would go with me when I got my license. Then we, just her & I, would plan a special road trip to the ocean that I’ve so longed to see (still waiting to take that trip). That promise was unable to be kept (at least part of it), for she passed away when I was 16 from the cancer spreading to her brain. At this time I felt like I lost a part of me, I felt I didn’t get enough time with her & I was lost, lonely & angry!

About 2 weeks after my grandma got “her heavenly wings,” while heading to the DMV to take my driver’s test, I was consumed by her presence. The van wreaked from the aroma of her flower perfume & the warmth of my grandma engulfed me. This made me cry with joy, realizing that not even death would keep her from keeping her promise to me! And after I passed my test & got my license, her aroma & presence disappeared.

Years after the passing of my grandmother, when I was at one of the lowest points in my life & my faith had been tried & questioned severely, I was in my mother’s closet looking for something she had lost, when this old, beat-up notebook fell down onto my feet. I felt compelled to read it, so I sat on the floor next to the closet & opened it. Whoosh, someone could have hit me with a ton of bricks!!! For it was one of my grandmother’s journals she wrote in to discuss with her counselor. Counselor? Say what?
I skimmed through quickly, then began reading full pages. It was about her struggles with her past addiction to alcohol, her manic-depressive disorder, her hurts, demons, thoughts, and feelings. I couldn’t stop reading it, for I was amazed & mesmerized by her writings. It was baffling to me that my grandmother carried so much deep sadness, for I have never seen any signs of her sadness, nor did she let on that she had these unbearable feelings. She always had a hand, hug, kiss & smile to share with everyone, and she radiated love & kindness.

{Jeremiah 10:19} My wound is severe, and my grief is great. My sickness is incurable, but I must bear it.

This was an eye opener for me, that she WAS the saint I knew her to be! That she was so unselfish that she hid her turmoiled mind behind her loving heart, soul & smile. As I sat on the bedroom floor that day reading my grandmother’s most intimate thoughts & feelings, I cried & cried! I cried for the pain she endured and because I wasn’t aware of it. I wished I could have helped her like she did me! And yet, she somehow helped me again by sending me this notebook at the exact time I needed it most…to help me understand her more deeply & to realize that, despite all of her hurts & demons, she held on to her faith, she held on tightly & trusted God, that she was still there for me, even after her death..well-played grandma, well-played 😉 I immediately felt a great peace fall over me. It made me realize that I have to regain my strength in my faith, for she was unbelievably strong & was the most faithful person I knew…I longed to be like her!

{2 Corinthians 12:10} “For when I am weak, then I am strong”.

It also made me realize that, sometimes people are very good at hiding their hurts & demons. That we need to be more aware of what people are feeling behind that smile they share. We need to lend an ear & open our hearts to help those who feel they cannot express their true feelings. Some people feel they should hold these feelings in because they feel they will burden others, they feel no one truly cares, they feel they have no one who will understand, they feel they need to be strong, or they are too proud to express that they feel these things! 

{Matthew 11:28} “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

I was grateful for the time that I had with my grandmother & that I, now, have this beautiful angel watching over me, just as she did when she was here in her body. That brought great peace & love to my tattered soul, thus the beginning of my soul & faith rebirth.
It does pain me that my grandmother wasn’t here, in the flesh, to share in most of my important milestones, but I have no doubt that she was with me in spirit, for love cannot be separated by death!

I do struggle that my sons & husband will never get the honor of meeting her & knowing her like I did, but my stories ring heavy in our house & they feel that they know her & love her through me.
It gives me great joy to know that she is watching over us, sharing in our joys, embracing us during our struggles & that she is proud of me, my husband & our sons. And I am at peace knowing I will be with her again some day!

{John 16:22} So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.

I love you very dearly & miss you every day, grandma! I am grateful your soul is at peace now! Thank you for your lessons & love…

I’m everything I am because you loved me ❤

For those of you who are battling demons within..pray about it & talk to someone! Don’t feel as though you are alone, because you are NOT alone! God is always with you..

{Judges 6:12} “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Love & blessings….




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