Tribute to Ramona Gra'Ves

Tiny - Posted on 07 January 2012

(Clockwise, sisters Charlene, Florence and Ramona)

My Dear Sister Ramona,
You were my big sister; but, we never got to trade clothes, have sister chats and do all of the other things that most sisters do with each other because we were separated by circumstances that were beyond our control. I only knew about you, but never really got to know the real you as I grew up. As an adult, one year led to another and then another without us interacting. I moved out of state, and more years went by. We followed our own paths that rarely intersected save for important family events that would bring us together. I thought about you often; but I was always so far away. Our children grew up and left the nest to begin their lives and make their own mark. Your life took a different path than mine. Yours was a glorious journey filled with a patchwork of relationships, good times and bad times, loving, nurturing, loss, commitment, and justification.
You were always a bit of a larger-than-life mystery to me. That might seem odd to some who’ve regularly interacted with you and most likely know you differently. But, eleven years is a big age difference between siblings, especially when you’re a kid, even under the best of circumstances. Ours is a story of years of separation followed by a time of reconnection that led ultimately to a beautiful restoration.
Early on, everything I knew about you came from the one-sided conversations I overheard from listening to the regular phone chats between Grandma Wright, RoRo, and Grandma Edna. In the family, you were known as the smart one; a quick study who never needed to labor over lessons in school because you got it the first time around. You were a high spirited young girl who loved to dance and have fun. Again, this I learned from Grandma’s side of the phone conversations.
Back then, our paths rarely ever physically crossed except every couple of years when we both happened to wind up visiting grandma at the same time. I grew into adulthood and you started your family. Without grandma’s house as the focal point of connection, our already fragile relationship grew even more distant. I moved far away. Whenever I would return to San Francisco, you, Charlene and I would meet for dinner at a restaurant somewhere. You stayed planted in your neighborhood. Your family grew and you grew as a person, as well. You went back to school to become the educator we all knew you were capable of becoming. Teaching the little ones—this was your calling
In 2002, I returned to the Bay Area to live. Sis, did you ever wonder why after so many years of living elsewhere, I decided to come back home? Well, even though I had a wonderful husband, son and by this time a grandson, still, there were empty spaces that needed to be filled. It was a longing for those overdue sister-chats and affirmations that only a sibling can satisfy. Right off, you started inviting me to family functions and I went. We got to know each other better. Our children got to know each other. Then, seven years later, when my journey again led me away from San Francisco and to North Carolina, and once again I needed to say goodbye, I was, of course, sad to leave, but it was different this time. My heart was now full. The empty spaces were now occupied with new memories made during my time spent with you and the family. On my last day in the city, you, me and Charlene, went to lunch at the Beach Restaurant. I promised to stay connected no matter the distance. I didn’t forget that promise. Once in North Carolina, I called you regularly. You called me too. We learned new things about each other during our conversations. I shared my photos with you and you told me things about our family that I never knew. You knew so much about our family’s history. I was amazed.
When I think about you sis, two words immediately come to mind—family, and community. Your world was your family. You were always involved with whatever they were doing. You were a natural nurturer and your children were the direct beneficiaries. Next you opened your arms to the grandchildren and finally the great-grand’s. What a family you created and oh my, how they do love you. Your commitment to your community was reflected in the fact that you stayed anchored rather than moving from place to place. I’d hear you say that you had to go and volunteer your time at the neighborhood food bank and at your church. You seemed to enjoy contributing without the need for fanfare or the spotlight. You simply saw a need and sought to find way to meet it.
So as your family and friends reflect back on and celebrate your life, I’m reminded of your 70th birthday party and how your face glowed when picture taking time came around. You asked for the children to circle around you. What a lovely sight it was to see you with babies in both arms and in your lap while the children all gathered around you—the next generation—encircling you as planets to the sun, in their own orbit, yet drawn and energized by you at the center.
We also celebrate the beginning of your new journey. Now beside your Lord, looking down upon your loved ones, you continue to be with us as he says to you:
“Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things. I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
(King James Bible, Matthew: 25:21).
I love you, sis and will cherish your memory always. You have left a proud and wonderful legacy that will live on, and continue to grow stronger and bless others. Yes, you’ve gone through many challenges yet were resilient enough to sustain and eventually emerge the victor—stronger and more committed than when you began. As I think back on your life, and how many you’ve touched, one thought keeps coming to mind. With all that you have contributed and accomplished, wouldn’t daddy have been proud?
With love always,
Your sister,


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