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From the mind of mom: There’s something about July

If you’re like me, you’ve got a certain time of the year when things just feel “touched.”

Maybe it’s fate, maybe it’s karma — maybe it’s luck or the universe or God Himself — whatever it is, it’s that time of year when everything happens at once. It’s the days, the weeks, the months or seasons of the year where you hold your breath and wonder: what’s it going to be this time?

In the Foley house, that “touched” time of year rolls around each July. Ten years ago in July, I had a life-saving surgery that changed my life. The next year, same month, I met my would-be husband.

One year and one day later — yes, I know we’re insane — we got married. It was an outdoor ceremony just outside of Love Valley, with an early morning rainfall leaving the temperature cool enough for my flower girl to need a sweater.

For us, on the inside of that queer-weathered, serendipitous moment, nothing could have embodied our conflicting mix of emotions better than that timid, confused summer sun. Just three days prior, my maternal grandmother and our family matriarch had suffered a massive stroke.

But the invitations were sent. The guests had arrived. The show went on and we gathered, unsure of whether or not to shine.

We marched into her happily ever after and she came home, wheelchair-bound but nonetheless treasured. A Southern Baptist pastor’s wife, she continued her eternal mothering of all from the seat of that tiny chair for the two years that followed, and then…

Then came another July surgery — hers this time — and the beginning of a five-year battle with Lewy body dementia.

Those five years brought us to July 2018, the Fourth of July on which we surprised my oldest daughter with the news she was finally getting her wish: she was going to be a big sister.

Once again three days later, I woke in the early morning hours to a phone call from my mother. I answered and heard two words: “She’s gone.” Shirley Yarbrough — “Mema” to me and far too many other grandchildren and great-grandchildren to count — had taken her last breath.

Another moment of joy. Another great loss. Another July.

One year removed from that day, the space she’d left in all of our lives remains. But nearby, creating her own little space in all of our hearts, is a five-month-old I call my own.

She came into this world in those quiet morning hours, two weeks early and too stunned to cry with short, tiny little legs and a button nose just like her great-grandmother’s. They laid her on my chest and I gasped: “Oh my gosh, you’re so cute!” (I’m still not quite sure what else I was expecting).

Five months later, those little legs have filled out, but she’s always waiting with a smile — just like Shirley.

Her eyes are like Shirley’s. Her lips are like Shirley’s. Her giggles, temper and love of gospel music — they’re all like Shirley’s.

She’s the balm we didn’t yet know we were going to need, I think as I watch my grandfather visit to reminisce with this new, old little soul.

That’s the thing about July. There are storms and there is sunshine, and I’m holding my breath to see what comes next.



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