Shirley. Photo Credit : Barbara Stanifer


The world is mourning the loss of Dr.Maya Angelou, a legendary author, great human being,  wonderful storyteller, an inspiration and lot more. Social media is buzzing with her quotes, poems and stories. She was undoubtedly a strong influence for women across the globe. In our story today, Barbabra Stanifer takes this opportunity to remember other such strong female influences in her own life.

With the passing of Maya Angelou, it has me reminiscing on the strong female influences in my life, I’m lucky in that I have many.  But when I conjure up one that makes me feel that kind of love I’ve been reading about in the various quotes being passed around today, I think of Shirley.  I refer to her as my grandmother, but we are not actually blood related.  She was our neighbor and I was four when she came into our lives. She saved us, all of us.  My mother desperately needed mothering and she gave her that.  I needed affection and she provided that in spades and when my sister was born, she was a babysitter in a pinch.  Her husband CB (who I refer to as my grandfather) was a giant of a man in physicality and heart.  Their house was my sanctuary, in my memory it was glowy warm, it always smelled like bread dough and it was comfort and love in its purest form. 

Barbara and her sister with Shirley. Photo Credit : Barbara Stanifer

She wasn’t perfect by any means; she was flawed like all of us.  I could tell you lots of stories of highs and lows.  But the moment that is tugging at my memory today was a car ride she and my mom and I shared, a long ride through the mountains at one of her darkest hours.  Alzheimer’s was slowly consuming Shirley’s brain, and one fateful night CB, her husband of some 68 years, fell.  He hit his head and had to be helicoptered to a hospital 2 hours away.  By the time my mom and I reached her, CB had been flown out and she was sitting with a neighbor obsessing over whether or not she had already fed the cats.  She seemed oblivious to the weight of the situation, which was the one blessing of dementia.  We scooped her up, packed some clothes for an undetermined amount of time and started on our 2-hour journey. 

My mom and I took all our grief and fear and shoved it to the corners of our brain.  We wanted her to stay in her oblivion, it would be much nicer there than in the harsh light of reality.  We started down any number of random conversation topics trying to keep things light, there may have even been a laugh or two in there.  And then with complete lucidity she said with that familiar glowy warmth, “You know CB loves you both so much.  He may not ever recover from this and that will be so sad for all of us, but you are both so loved.  You mean the world to me.”  I was shocked by her clarity, by her calm in the face of what must have been a terrifying situation for her.  But most of all I felt so completely wrapped in tenderness.  

This woman, who saved us many times over, in her darkest hour wanted to make sure that WE knew we were loved.  Her concern in that moment was for OUR well-being and here we thought we were protecting her.  That is love that liberates…

Love Liberates ! Photo Credit : Barbara Stanifer

Story Credit And Photo Credit : Barbara Stanifer. 
Barbara is an amazing storyteller and she has written for Chatoveracuppa before. She is very observant of the little things in life and treasures them the most as well, a reflection of which can be seen in all her stories. This is her personal story and pictures. We are so touched to be publishing this today on her behalf.

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