Celebrating the Life and Legacy of my Grandmother Maxine Butler Stephens

On Saturday, January 6th I gathered with family and friends to celebrate my maternal grandmother, Maxine Butler Stephens, who transitioned from her earthly assignment on December 26, 2017.

Although we knew she wouldn’t live forever in that body, and we knew that she was fighting Alzheimer’s-Dementia, we never expected that she would transition when she did–we weren’t prepared for now, our mind was on “later”.

Call it denial. Call is hope. Call it whatever. None of it matters because we were immediately faced with the present reality—that there would be no more visits to her nursing home, no more playing her Chubby Checker and Chuck Berry songs, no more sending flowers and gifts, holding hands, and seeing her eyes twinkle as she tried to recognize the face she looked back at during each visit.

I’ve been traveling several times per year for the past four years to visit with my grandmother, and work on rehabbing her home she and my grandfather purchased more than 46 years ago. It has been a great honor and privilege to begin restoring the house my grandparents so greatly loved. I look forward to enjoying family meals there again in the future.

On Saturday we all gathered at my grandparent’s church and we celebrated my grandmother, her accomplishments, words of wisdom, and the fact that she’s now in the full embrace of family members and friends who transitioned before her.

My cousin Patricia sang her heart out reminding us of the essence of my grandmother. We weren’t there to cry in sorrow. We were there to celebrate and the only tears we should shed should be joyful ones. Our cousin Charles “Po’ Boy” made us laugh so hard that the feeling still stirs inside of me today. My cousin Princess Chere shared a beautiful reflection of the 32 years she’s been blessed to love and be loved by our grandmother.

I also spoke. I think God was letting me know something–as I walked past the guest lectern and walked immediately to the pastor’s microphone. I was drawn there and told the pastor that it was simply prophetic. We all laughed. My grandmothers (both maternal and paternal) saw in me a future as a servant leader and leading through the church. I’m not sure what the future holds but I do know that I always want to be obedient to God and honor my family. Maybe my Breaking Bread site is it–or maybe it’s just the beginning. Time will tell.

I created a video that captured moments of my grandmother’s 84 years here. Below and throughout this post are a few images and snippets from the video.

Below is the message that I wrote for my grandmother Maxine. To be respectful of time, I didn’t share all of it on Saturday so I share it here today. Rest well Mamacine!

The other day I found the printed words that I spoke here at Allen Chapel almost 23 years ago as we celebrated the life and legacy of my grandfather, Elisberry Stephens, the amazing husband of this bold and beautiful woman Maxine Stephens. I’m filled with joy not sorrow today, because I know my grandparents are embracing each other today. I know that she is with family and friends who have been waiting to reunite with her.

As the second eldest grandchild of this union, my cousins and I lovingly call her “Mamacine”. We all have our own memories of being loved by this Queen.

For me I reminisce over how much she did for family and friends. I reflect on how much she showered her grandchildren with gifts and words of wisdom. We may not have gotten the lessons when she taught them but at some point we did and we will.

I reflect over the years growing up at Dixon’s Barber shop, calling myself Mamacine’s apprentice—helping sweep the floors and chairs, greeting customers, and begging to prep her tools and supplies—she never would let me sharpen those razors on the leather straps. There’s still something nostalgic about hearing the slapping of those straps.

We would watch the soap operas and game shows and then eat whatever lunch she packed for us. I also enjoyed the camaraderie that she shared with her customers and I enjoyed visiting the neighboring beauty salons chatting it up with the ladies in there. I can still smell the sizzling of pressing combs and the lye used in the perms.

My cousins Shawn, Tia and I would sneak through the back interior hallway that led from Dixon’s to the shops as we imagined various adventures—the best part was making our way next door to buy a glass bottle of soda and popping the top on the machine. Even if we got in trouble, it seemed worth it to get that last sip of pop.

I always enjoyed going to work with Mamacine. My childhood experiences laid the foundation for me. Mamacine giggled with joy when I told her I was paying part of my tuition in college cutting hair. Mamacine helped to shape and mold me into the woman and entrepreneur that I am today. Her service in the church and the community helped to shape my mind and heart as a servant leader.

I have vivid memories of Mamacine spoiling me at the same time fussing at me—because—I could be a little hardheaded—honestly I still am. She would say “okay keep being ornery”. As an adult I would laugh whenever I’d think of her telling me this as a child. I will keep those words in my heart as a reminder whenever I step out of line.

I can’t speak for all of my cousins, but I don’t think they would argue that we all will miss her. We will do our best to carry this heavy torch she led our family with for many years. I carry my head high because I’m proud to be the granddaughter of Maxine Butler Stephens.

I love you Mamacine!


Copyright 2018. All Rights Reserved. Natasha L. Foreman/Natasha Foreman Bryant

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