My precious grandmother Catherine Maude Rhyne Boggs Postell died today. And my heart is broken.
She's the last grandparent. My maternal grandmother died when I was 11 years old and both of my grandfathers died before I was born.
She was a hub for the Boggs/Rhyne family - and not just for her children and grandchildren, but also for dozens of aunts, uncles, neices, nephews, cousins, and family friends. An endless stream of family members and friends have visited over the past few days and it has been fun to see them, even though the circumstances are so sad.
Maw Maw was born dirt poor - the 9th of Quince and Maude Rhyne's 11 children - 9 boys and 2 girls. She and my grandfather Tommie Frank Boggs worked in textile mills their entire life and raised my father and my aunts Rhonda and Cathy on a family farm on Cloninger Road in Dallas. Maw Maw lived on Cloninger Road her entire life, most recently across the road from the farmhouse she grew up in with her 10 siblings. I'm proud of my family's humble roots.
She never had much of nothing - to borrow her own phrase - but she was most generous person that I knew. My grandmother lived on social security checks and food stamps for the past 10 years, but still gave away everything that she didn't need - and she's always been this way. My mother and father hit some rough times when my brother, sister, and I were young and Maw Maw would leave money in their mailbox on her way to the mill at 5:30 in the morning - just so my parents could make it to my father's next paycheck.
Laughing with (or "at", as it were) Maw Maw was a treasured pastime for my family, especially at Christmas - see here, here, and especially here for a few representative examples. Most of the phone calls I have with my parents revolve around the funny things that Maw Maw has said or done.
She was a staunch Republican, so you can imagine her dismay when I gave her a homemade "Vote for John Kerry" t-shirt for Christmas in 2004, pictured here. When I came to her house that Christmas morning - after not seeing her for at least a couple months - she hugged me, kissed me on the cheek, looked me in the eye, and said without a hint of humor in her voice: "I know you didn't vote for Bush."
When I was home from school one summer, I spent an afternoon with Maw Maw singing songs and making music. I recorded some of our work and spent the rest of the night at home "augmenting" the music with harmonica, guitar, and silly spoken word. You can listen to the finished songs here. My grandmother loved these songs more than anything.
It breaks my heart that she never got to hold a great grandchild. And that I won't be able to tease her about ObamaCare. And that I'll never eat her famous macaroni and cheese or fried apple pies. That I'll never get to hear my Dad tell me about the latest ridiculous thing that she said or did. That I'll never get to repay her generosity. And that a part of my identity is gone.