“You ain’t never seen a spirit like mine.”

It was true. She was the most unshakeable person I knew. Carried herself with confidence but with an ease that suggested it was nothing she thought over. It was that kind of poise and her talent for fried plantains that made her an easy choice for a fake grandma after my real one had passed away.

Mrs. Powell was a piano teach, choir director and former US Air Force dispatch. She told me about how she took calls from soldiers calling home from Vietnam, how she sang in front of the troops during their dinners- one of the few women of color to do so at the time. She never talked about the oppression and challenges that inevitable followed her through her life. She always had more reasons to be thankful than reasons to complain. In this way, she was similar to my real grandmother, whose stern face could quickly break into a blinding smile.

When Mrs. Powell had to go to the hospital for stomach pains, we thought nothing of it, mainly because she sounded so positive and reassuring on the phone. So when we got the phone call that she had gone septic and died, it felt like a brick to the back of the head.

After her passing I found myself more confused than sad- at the way her husband seemed to be stronger than any of us there. Grabbing me by the should he patted me like an old football coach and smiled an unexpected smile in deep contrast with his dark suit. He made me realize that even though life had taken from him, he refused to be emptied. He had learned that much from his big love and that much couldn’t be taken away.

I think we fight harder for our happiness when the things that inspired it are gone. It is then that we see its intrinsic value, that joy in soul is valuable enough for us alone. Lately, I’ve realized that taken things are no excuses for a stolen spirit. In fact, the empty room is often a test to see if how we are is tied to what we have. It’s a test that true character, humbleness and gratitude pass everytime.

Rose Kennedy once said:

“Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever sunlight remains to them?”

Today, whatever your past losses, choose to let your spirit delight in whatever else remains.

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