As soon as you met my Nana and heard her southern drawl, or walked into her kitchen and smelled the familiar, comfortable smells of bacon grease and Bisquick, you would quickly realize that you were in the presence of a Southern Lady. Now, I do not use the terms “Southern” or “Lady” lightly, especially now that both words have come to have ambiguous meanings. I mean those words in the deepest sense, and I would like to share with you a few ways that my Nana fully and comprehensively embodied them.
First of all, a Southern Lady knows that it’s all about the details, and my Nana paid attention to the details. Whether she was matching her handbag to the exact shade of taupe as her shoes, making sure ice tea spoons were on the table regardless of the meal, or scrutinizing the quality of toilet paper at every hotel she stayed, she noticed the details. But she also cared deeply about the details of the lives of those around her. When a grandchild came to visit, she always had a favorite dessert or treat on hand, she remembered the names of our friends and recalled the date and significance of every major (and minor) event in our lives. She sent cards to everyone she knew, making sure that each birth, wedding, holiday, loss, recovery, or milestone was marked with thoughtful acknowledgement. She remembered the prayer requests of everyone in her Sunday school classes and thoughtfully reached out the make sure they knew they were thought of and prayed for.
Secondly, a Southern Lady is modest. They know better than to flaunt themselves and guard their beauty with high esteem. And with the one exception of a photo my Papa always carried of her, posed against a chain link fence in a swimsuit, Nana was always a beacon of modesty. But her modesty was more than external. Never once did I ever hear her brag, or elevate herself above another person. She listened louder than she spoke and celebrated the accomplishments and joys of others and gave her sincere attention to others without hesitation or selfishness.
A Southern Lady is Poised. In every picture you will ever see of my Nana standing, you will notice her feet pointed distinctly at 10 and 2, shoulders back and chin up. She sat in recliners and on fishing boats gracefully, and even her hair knew better than to ever slouch. But that poise came from a deep strength within. She bravely endured decades of chronic neck, shoulder, and back pain, and weathered the storms of life, marriage, and motherhood with decorum and grace. She relied deeply on a strength not her own, as she stood poised before the throne of God, keenly aware of her place as his beloved daughter.
A Southern lady is always on time. Nana always arrived exactly when she said she would and never missed a single significant event. She made a graceful exit just as it was time to leave, but only after refreshing her lipstick because “you never know who you might see on the way.” This thoughtfulness extended even in the last weeks of her life, and she held on as hard as she could to be there for my cousin’s wedding, sure not to miss the family event of the year. And I don’t know what she worked out with the Lord, but I think it was a testimony to her endless consideration to stay with us on Christmas day so that we would not be mourning on the day of Christ’s birth. As they say, a lady always knows when to leave.
And last of all, A Southern Lady knows how to have a good time. Some of my favorite memories of my Nana are of her laughing so hard she cried, her competitiveness in dominoes at the beach, and listening to her tell stories of her life. She prepared amazing meals, and even her iced tea was better than anyone else’s, and we’ve never been able to figure out why. She and my Papa traveled the world together and collected wonderful memories and hilarious stories that we’ll relive for years to come. But now, she’s having the best time yet, reunited to those she dearly loves and standing face to face with Jesus in the glorious presence of her Heavenly Father. There she is robed in the righteousness of Christ, a beautiful white garment that will never stain or wrinkle, and which she will wear for eternity, even after Labor Day.
My Nana was a Southern Lady. We were blessed to have her, we will deeply miss her, and we can’t wait to see her again.