My friend Lance used to tell me I had the most fictional non-fiction name he’d ever heard. I never told him about my grandma Birdie Dove – the best real name in the whole world.
Truth is I didn’t know much about her. Still don’t. But this week I saw her face for the very first time.
I have searched through censuses, genealogy records, and asked my dad about a thousand questions about this woman who I dreamed of knowing, wept about not knowing, longed to touch, only to hit wall after wall after wall.
Grandma Birdie passed away at age 42, when my dad was only 17 years old. He remembers little about her and couldn’t tell me much but her maiden name (Cooper) and that her birth name truly was Birdie. I always figured it was a nickname.
Dad knew she was buried in the Stafford, Kansas, cemetery. I found her grave one cloudy, windy afternoon when I was feeling particularly blue. On a whim, I took a three-hour drive to Stafford and located my grandma’s gravestone hoping it would give me some clue as to who she was. All it said was “Birdie 1923-1965.” No middle name. Not even a birthday. I sat by grandma’s grave talking to her like any granddaughter might talk to the real thing. I felt her presence there but wanted her person there so much it hurt. Why did this lady have to remain such a mystery? My missing link.
Then last Friday night, as we pulled into Mesa, Arizona, discouraged and facing some impossible issues, sick with the flu, weary from travel, my phone dinged as we walked into The Village Inn for dinner. I hit the e-mail app, and like a glimmer of sunlight through the storm cloud, there she was – the very last thing on earth I expected to see at that moment. My dad had found three photos of his mother, who I had yearned to see for 40 years, and like a flash, all my troubles disappeared.
She looked like an angel. She is an angel. My angel.
I stared through tears and smiles at a single photo of my grandmother, a photo of her with my grandpa “Bing” Arlie Dove, and another candid shot of my Grandma Birdie and her sister Audrey. My heart grew.
I received her death certificate the very same day. God had sent me two rays of sunshine in one evening, a day when I desperately needed His light.
I now know where my grandmother was born, her birthdate, my great-grandparents’ names, another one of her siblings (I knew beforehand she also has a sister named Joyce), and how my grandmother died.
My grandmother. Birdie Dove. The most fictional non-fictional name I’ve ever heard – finally a reality. I can’t wait to meet her in heaven.