This week we lost my husband’s grandmother to cancer. Above all else, she was a fiercely devoted matriarch. So strong was her family dedication that she greatly intimidated me when I joined the Coleman family. I knew that if I did anything wrong by her grandson, I’d have to answer to her. That alone was enough motivation to keep our marriage on track.
When I was pregnant with Eddie, and we learned I was carrying a boy, I honestly felt proud. Eddie was the first boy of his generation, and would be the first great-grandson for James’ Grandma. I realize this is extremely old-fashioned, and I don’t mean I value his sisters any less, but there is something simple about having a boy. That simple thing is the possibility of carrying on the family name.
My expectations for Eddie were (maybe unfairly) escalated upon his birth, which led to my instant fear when we learned he was blind. I was afraid that Eddie would be considered a disappointment, even if my fear was unfounded. My husband had no such worries, but he had known his family his entire life. Since I was a new addition, I was unsure if Eddie would be openly accepted.
One of the first phone calls we received after Eddie’s diagnosis was from James’ Grandma. From that first phone call until the moment she passed, she has done nothing but show Eddie unconditional acceptance. She treated Eddie exactly the same as all her other great-grandchildren. She welcomed him in her lap regularly, and supplied a steady stream of candy and ice cream.
She was the kind of grandma to him, and to my girls, that every child should have. Listening to my husband’s generation speak of her, I imagine she has been that way forever. They were raised knowing that they were the most important things in her life, and her great-grandchildren were blessed with that same knowledge. The greatest gift she ever gave to me, and to Eddie, was unconditional acceptance.
Because she loved Eddie and all of his attributes from the beginning, she set an example for the rest of her family. The simple gift of acceptance is one of many legacies she leaves behind. Because of her, Eddie has cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and many other distant relatives that simply love him. The kindness they show to him now and in the future will constantly remind me of this woman.
It is easy to forget how much influence we can have over the lives of others. By having children with visual impairments, we know which families were raised with acceptance, and those that weren’t. If you’re like me, your heart is easily broken by those with less tolerance, and everyone could do with less of that.
I hope for myself to set the kind of example that James’ grandmother did. I hope she left behind some of her spirit and fierce family devotion with me so that I can be the mom Eddie deserves and do right by her for Eddie’s sake. I know she had high hopes for Eddie and for us as his parents. Thanks to the support system she has left behind, we have the ability to keep our hopes high, too. For that I will be forever grateful, and continually giving her thanks.