Mana passed away tonight.
I remember the first time I met her, in the kitchen of her home here in North Carolina. She was the first person I met of Matt's family, needless to say, I was nervous. All of those feelings of apprehension were gone within the first couple of seconds. I knew right then why Matt spoke so fondly of her. She was so warm and inviting and such a joy to be with. Matt eventually moved into her house. He would take her to run her errands during the day and spend hours walking the aisles at all of her favorite stores. I would go with them on occasion and smile as she added things to the cart that I knew were especially for Matt. She always made sure to stock up on everyone's favorites. Mana would put the date on the food she would buy. That made me smile when I would get something out of her cupboard.
Matt and I enjoyed taking Mana out to dinner when we could. Cracker Barrel was always her favorite. She would make sure to bring home a biscuit for Buffy. Matt and I had our own place we liked to take her to called the Hard Times Cafe. Our regular waiter soon began to ask about her when we would go by ourselves when Mana was home back in Dunbar. We would bring her Icees from time to time or enjoy take out dinner. I loved sitting and visiting with her almost almost every night she was in North Carolina and at least once a week after Matt moved out. She was always there with a kind word and a smile. She waved in almost every picture and she would watch you and wave as you drove away.
Driving up to the house and seeing Mana working in her yard was such a great treat. She was a very hard working and independent woman. She would never ask for help and most of the time I don't think that she wanted it. We came over for a visit this past fall and I noticed a mark on her arm, and asked what happened. She rubbed it and said that she had jabbed it with a stick when she was climbing underneath of a bush. I just shook my head and told her that is what we are here for!
She loved working outside and would work until it was too dark. She always did things for herself. One time while helping unload some mulch and topsoil from her car, Mana worried that Matt and I might hurt ourselves (even though we knew she had already done some herself!). Her garden was so spectacular and it was so impressive the way she was diligent about keeping it up. She is what drove me to desire to learn to garden. I regret not learning more from her.
Mana would ask me about my family and could remember every detail of the stories I would share with her about my parents, nephews and my own grandmothers. This made me feel so good. She was the first I showed my wedding band to, and she was the first we showed our house too. She was also the one to make our dream of buying a house possible.
I only knew Iris Virginia Smith Wiggins for a short while. She immediately took me into her family and made me feel like one of her own. I could write on forever about her, but for the moment I wanted to share some of my good memories. I cannot express the gratitude I feel to have met her. I only wish that I had told her how she made me feel.
I love you and will miss you, Mana.