Today I shared a special occasion with one of my niece’s. Today she signed her National Letter of Intent to receive an athletic scholarship! I was a proud aunt and family member. The informal ceremony brought me to tears. This was my “baby” sister’s daughter and it was such a blessing to see my sister reap the rewards of her good parenting, mentoring and support. As I engaged with the family, taking pictures, videos, sharing hugs and congratulations, I realized that this occasion did not happen by chance. It took a lot of years of preparation and dedication to get to this day and this is just the beginning.
My sister and her family have spent many years playing sports, mainly basketball and football. There were other sports in the past…soccer, t-ball and baseball, but my niece, who stands at 5’10 ½ according to my sister, was drawn to the game of basketball. My sister played the sport during middle school and continued throughout her college days at the shipyard apprentice school. I guess you could say that my niece decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She was awkward for many years on the court, learning the rules of the game and how to maneuver her body at the same time. She played each season faithfully while keeping her grades up…at least until mid-high school when, one day she woke up and her friends, boys and “all things teenager” finally sparked her attention. Despite a few setbacks, my niece got her grades back up and continued to play the game and pursue her goal of playing college ball.
Just like many parents whose day is encompassed with school activities and sports, dance lessons, music lessons and other extra-curricular activities, my sister, her husband and their children successfully managed to participate in sports and other activities while maintaining good grades and still find time for family and friends. Sometimes I wonder how they do it, but over the years I watched my sister and her husband effectively and lovingly communicate and organize their schedules so that their children could get to and from practices, get dinner, homework, attend church and other daily events and keep their sanity.
One of the other things I noticed about my sister and her husband is that they are not overly obsessed with winning or their children’s performance. Don’t get me wrong, they definitely encouraged competiveness and they keep note of their children’s stats, but there is a balance of good sportsmanship and personal drive in their children. As parents they never yell at the referees, coaches or their children. I’ve watched them display patience with my niece, in particular, when others around them suggested that she be more aggressive on the court. My sister continued to encourage her to play her best and to be herself. I watched my niece play her favorite sport with passion, without the aggressiveness that sort of comes with the territory. My mother deemed my niece the “Gentle Giant” as a result of her laid-back attitude on the court.
This family, my family has truly demonstrated dedication, discipline, sportsmanship, patience, encouragement and support and faith. This day didn’t just happen because of talent and being in the right place at the right time, it is a culmination of years of hard work, sacrifice, practices and games, meetings, crazy schedules, fundraisers, volunteer work and travel. My sister and her husband have invested and sacrificed much time and money to enjoy the benefits of this blessing. I was honored to share it with them.
Today I remember my Grandma, aka, Nana, Mama, Aunt Shug and Mrs. Inez Reeves. She would have been 84 years old today. When I asked her why people called her “Shug” (pronounced shoog), she told me that it’s because she’s so sweet. Grandma was a woman of faith, an exceptional cook, a Sunday school teacher and superintendent and an avid fisher. Before she retired she had managed restaurants and created recipes used by those establishments all over our region. Grandma taught me so much about how to live by faith, be dependable, how to act like a lady and to be a blessing to others. Her motto was “Lord, bless me so that I may be a blessing to others.” She lived a humble life, giving of her time, talents and treasures to her family, our beloved church and to our community.
My Grandma helped my single mother, and so many others in our “village”, to raise me and my two sisters. We were blessed to have this angel in our lives. When times were hard for us she always stepped in to ensure that we had everything that we needed and more. When I was a young adult, raising my first son as a single parent for five years, my Grandma was by my side to help care for him while I took college courses and began working. She offered wisdom, tough love and much grace as I meandered through my young adult years. Her optimism, faith and wisdom caused me to spend hours at her house, sitting at her feet, listening, and learning, soaking up all the love and life lessons in order to find my way. When I started my career as a behavioral health professional, married and had my second son, Grandma was by my side. It was second nature for me to call or stop by to just talk, visit, and get a recipe or when I needed an inspirational boost. Grandma continued to be source of strength and encouragement for me.
I am the woman I am today as a result of her love, time shared with me and her wisdom. While Grandma shared numerous milestones with me and my children, she never got to see me fulfill some of my greatest dreams and look forward to the possibilities ahead. Grandma died in 2008, one year before I obtained my bachelor’s degree and two years before I obtained my master’s and my son, her first great-grandchild, graduated from high school. Grandma had watched me toil for years to get a college education. She never got to see me start a business, helping others to maximize their character as she had always taught me to do. Nevertheless, I’m always encouraged by her life. My Grandma continues to live through the lives of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and through all of the lives that she touched while she was with us. I’m convinced that when a person lives their life as My Shug did, their legacy will go on forever.