My family has always been close. I feel so fortunate to have lived a life with a family that genuinely cares so much for one another. It meant even more the year that Deddy battled cancer. There were always family and friends around. I think to have a family that truly cares, is more of a blessing in this life than anything else. As I have traveled all over the U.S. the last 7 years, I’ve seen a lot of homeless people. I always feel so sorry for someone that is homeless because it breaks my heart that for whatever reason, they don’t have a family around them. A good friend of mine was with me one time when I rolled down my window and handed a homeless person some money. He asked me if I did that all the time and I told him “no.” Then he asked me why I did it sometimes instead of never doing it, or doing it all the time. My answer was simple, sometimes I feel led to do it. Honestly, that’s not me being a good person, that’s the Lord telling me to do it.
This past week my grandmother passed away. She lived 89 years and she had a wonderful life in my opinion. She was never wealthy, she never lived in a mansion, and she was not a member of high society in any way. But what she did have was a family. She moved to Boyd Brafford Rd about 70 years ago when she and Papa got married. She grew up outside of Sanford where they were accustomed to “going to town” on a regular basis. She told me one time when she moved out to Harnett County, she thought she had moved to the moon! For her, it was a long ways from civilization. But she and Papa made a good life for themselves. She had four sons, Boyd Jr., Bob (my father), Sammy, and Randy. All four of her sons grew up in a home where they felt loved by two parents that made every effort to provide for them everything they needed. They can remember things like when they got indoor plumbing, when they had electricity connected to the house, and when they had a new well dug by hand. Mema and Papa Brafford had a wonderful marriage but it wasn’t always like the Cleavers. They would make each other so mad sometimes you would think one of them would blow a gasket. But at the end of the day, they loved each other. They set a precedent for everyone else as to how to be a family. They cared for their children, they cared for their grandchildren, they cared for each other’s family, and they were always respectful of each other.
Mema Brafford was quite a character. She was going to get her “hair done” on Thursdays no matter what. She had a very mild stroke a few years ago and literally had to pull over on the side of the road. After she got herself together, instead of going to the doctor, she continued to her standing appointment to get her hair fixed! She liked to pick a guitar and she liked to listen to the radio. She loved going to church. She enjoyed going to eat lunch with some of her family and friends whenever she could. She liked to go to K-Mart and look around while she waited to get medicine filled. To her, neither Wal-Mart nor Target held a candle to K-Mart. She loved to plant flowers. She loved birds and she kept a hummingbird feeder on her porch all the time. There was not a person on the planet that loved her dogs more than she did. A man who grew up with my father and uncles, told me not long ago that everyone who lived in Harnett County knew the last thing you ever wanted to do was do ANYTHING to an animal on Boyd Brafford Rd. The consequences for that were not good.
Mema Brafford had 8 brothers and sisters. None of them lived to be older than 67. All of them died of cancer except two. Her oldest brother was killed in a car crash and her youngest brother died of a massive heart attack. Her first sister to pass away was only in her 40’s. It seems like during my entire childhood, one of Mema’s family members were dying from cancer. Even most of her sibling’s spouses died from cancer. Each time someone in the family was battling cancer, Mema was always very involved to help as much as she could. But the most difficult illness I ever saw Mema deal with, was my father’s battle with cancer. I think my uncles would agree, Deddy was a “Mama’s boy.” That year took a toll on everybody, and it certainly did on Mema and Papa. Deddy had a special relationship with Mema. He was always good to her but he could also give her some “tough love” if it was necessary. I am certain that when she passed away, Deddy was one of the very first angels to greet her. Papa told me one time that no parent should ever have to bury a child, no matter how old they are. But to think about how many loved ones Mema outlived, it really is incredible. As her health declined the last several weeks, I contemplated that she had a lot more family and friends waiting for her on the other side than she had left here. I know Deddy was elated to see his Mama.
Mema Brafford had a terrific quality of life until her last few months. She was still driving herself around until about a year ago. She was able to enjoy family gatherings, lunches, and visits. I will remember so many funny things that I heard her say through the years. I will remember that she would tell me that certain things I would say were mean, but at the same time she would be laughing like crazy about what I said. I will remember how much she loved all of us. Literally, 10 minutes before she took her final breath, she told us that she “loved all of us.” She was not alone when she passed away, but had her 3 sons by her side and a room full of grandchildren and great grandchildren. Her last day, she indicated several times that my father was there. She spoke about a beautiful farm with a stream that she had visited already and she walked around and talked to Jesus. She said on that farm was every dog she had ever had. She also went swimming with her brothers, sisters and her father in a river. As she always did, her mother sat on the bank and waited for them as they swam. She said that she wanted them to come back and get her and take her back to Heaven. She specifically mentioned Papa Brafford and her brother J.A. So even in the end, as her body gave out to a long life, she was never alone. She was also not alone as she passed on to God’s Kingdom. Her entire life was built on a foundation of family, and because of that, Mema Brafford passed away a rich woman. As a family, we can all take comfort knowing with absolute certainty, all is well with her soul.