The Winn-Dixie is crowded. Not Black-Friday crowded, but T-minus-two-days-until-Tha
I’m buying sweet potatoes for my wife. She’s making a sweet potato pie which she’s been perfecting for eighteen Thanksgivings in a row.
I could eat my weight in sweet potato pie.
When they lay me down, they will write: “Here lies Sean. Ate too much pie. 14 ft. boat for sale.”
In line ahead of me: an elderly woman. She is little, and has curly white hair. Her cart is brimming with food. Her grandson is pushing another loaded cart. They have enough food to survive the second coming of Conway Twitty.
She notices my sweet potatoes.
“You can cut in line,” she offers. “You only have a few things, we have TWO carts.”
Granny and I make friends. I learn that she’s cooking Thanksgiving feast for forty-some people.
Her family is coming into town from all parts. Her cousins from Oregon, Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Texas. She’s even invited folks from church.
She’s throwing a hootenanny. A shindig. A fracas. A hoedown. A knee-slapping plate-polishing party. Whatever you want to call it, it’s serious.
“This ain’t JUST Thanksgiving,” she says. “It’s a celebration that I’m alive.”
Last year, for ten months, she had pneumonia. She got so sick she went into a rehab facility. Doctors said the infection would likely kill her.
“My preacher laid hands on me almost every day,” she says. “He’d pray the same thing…
“‘Have I not commanded thee, be strong and of good courage, and neither thou dismayed, for the Lord is with thee whithersoever thou goest.’”
She has repeated these words to herself for months, even when she was sleeping.
She had visions while in her hospital bed. She tells me she saw a white light, shaped like a body, sitting on a golden chair.
“The Lord told me: ‘Darling, I ain’t ready for you to be here in Heaven yet. You got work to do on earth.”
And I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel good to know that the Big Man uses unliterary conjunctions like “ain’t”
Granny’s grandson chimes in, “Tell him about seeing Paw-Paw, Mee-Maw. Tell it.”
So she tells it.
She saw a young man dressed in white. A man she married once, long ago. He kissed her forehead and said, “You got work to do, Cynthia.”
Her infection got worse. Doctors gave her a few weeks to live, tops. Her family camped in the waiting room. They survived on vending machine food and coffee. They said their goodbyes.
But the tide shifted. Doctors couldn’t explain how. She beat her sickness with flying colors.
“You’re looking at a miracle,” she says. “I’m ONLY here ‘cause God has work for me to do—even though I’m ready to go to Glory.”
I ask what kind of work that might be.
“Why, I’m here to tell people he loves’em.”
She hugs her grandson. She rubs his face the same way grannies have been doing since the beginning of the world. Soft and gentle.
“That’s my purpose,” she says.
You should see the way the kid is looking at her. You ought to see how she’s looking back at him. There is a lot of heart in this tiny woman.
She’s got work to do.