I’ve been asked this question so often in recent days that I thought I needed to come up with a real answer. As funny as it seems, I’ve never really articulated my feelings about what my grandmother Frances was trying to convey when she wrote the letter in the back of her beloved bible. I thought I might share my thoughts.
Girl be brave.
Such hefty words, especially when you consider the source. Just like so many others, Frances had a hard life. She lived in a time of great scarcity, never knowing where the next meal would come from. She dropped out of school to work in the mills and create the best life she could. There weren’t a lot of options for women in the rural south during the depression.
Sometimes I think about her life and experiences. I can only imagine what life must have been like for her, being a single mom with few resources and no legal rights.
As I read the letter Frances wrote, my heart aches. It’s a heart-wrenching plea for her estranged husband to take responsibility and for her boys to not follow in his footsteps. In her writing you can feel the desperation of a mother wanting her children to have a better life than she did. I think we all can relate to that, wanting someone we love to make better choices.
Having spent so much time with Frances, I feel so connected to her words and the love that motivated her. She was trying to tell her daughter that life can be hard, that it will be hard. Every single person on the planet is going to struggle at some point. Nobody gets through this life without some level of tribulation. Frances knew that, and she wanted her daughter to know it too.
Yes, her grammar was incorrect. She didn’t add the comma, so I didn’t either. I wanted it to be authentically her words. Frances wasn’t overly educated, she wasn’t trying to be proper.
Frances was trying to survive. She was trying to teach her daughter how to survive. Frances wanted her daughter to be prepared for life in a world that can be cruel and relentless.
It takes bravery to survive.
She accomplished that. My mom taught me and now I teach my daughter. I don’t sugar coat this life for her, just as Frances didn’t soften the edges for her daughter. I believe in kindness and honesty.
Frances told her the truth. Girl be brave, you’re gonna need it.