Around four o'clock this morning, my phone went off. I fumbled with it for a few minutes and mashed the side button to turn the ringer off. In my fog, I thought it was my alarm clock and that I was hitting the sleep button. Sleep patterns with an infant will do that to you.

About 45 minutes later, I woke up in a panic thinking that I had overslept my snooze button and was going to be late for work. Peering into the darkness of our room, I saw a bright red "5:45" staring back at me. Clearly I hadn't overslept...so clearly it wasn't my alarm going off. I looked at my phone and saw that both parents had tried calling. It could only mean one thing, at least this week: my grandmother Jackie Hill had finally passed away. 

2016 is really playing through to the final whistle. 

She had been battling cancer for a very long time. All signs in the last week pointed to this happening on an any-given-day basis. We saw it coming but getting the news still blindsides you when it hits. As much as you can be prepared, you're never fully prepared for a close family member to pass on. 

However, this post really isn't meant to be one of sadness or grief. Jackie wouldn't want that. Honestly, she probably wouldn't even want me to go to the trouble of writing publicly about her like this. But here we are - and she's not here to stop me. 

Jackie - not grandma

You may have noticed that I haven't referred to her as "grandma" or "mamaw" or anything like that. I had always called her by her first name, Jackie, for as long as I can remember. Nobody really knows where it started or how. But it stuck. Jackie would even joke to me that being called grandma made her feel old, so me calling her by name was totally okay with her. I don't even believe she had even hit 50 years old when I was born, so that may have been true!

She gracefully embraced the lack of originality from her oldest grandson when it came to her title. I just learned at an early age that there aren't many "Jackie" birthday cards being sold at Hallmark :)  Even though I didn't call her grandma, it didn't make her any less of one. 

Class and taste in any situation

Whenever I hear the term southern belle, I immediately think of Jackie. She had a Julia-Sugarbaker-from-Designing-Women level of southern sophistication to her. It didn't matter if we were sitting down in a dirt-floored tent at their church camp meeting or in a fancy restaurant, she would bring the same level of class into each situation. 

She also had impeccable taste when it came to fashion and home decor. Those who know me will probably find it odd that I have any opinion on either subject, but it was apparent with her. No matter what house or church parsonage she and CR lived in, she had that place looking great by the time she was done with it. She also had a keen eye on style as well with some of my (in her words...sharpest) clothes coming from her growing up.

As a kid, I always joked with her that I wanted her to decorate my first apartment for me since I knew she'd do a good job. If you saw my first two apartments out of school, you'd quickly realize I had failed to enlist her help. When I moved into my first apartment in Atlanta before Megan and I got married, she made sure on moving day that I had matching kitchen and bathroom towels, shower curtains and vanity accessories before my new wife took residence there. Mostly because she cared - and partly because she knew that I was probably never going to do it myself ;)

Private to a fault

Jackie was incredibly private in a lot of ways. I saw her do things for other people without making any fuss or making a point of not being highlighted. As a minister's wife for decades, she served just as hard as CR in their local churches, her role often times being behind the scenes support - which I am sure she preferred. 

Some people reading this may not have even known she had cancer to begin with. She wouldn't want a fuss to be made about her. Jackie was a quiet fighter, all the way to the end. She had a resolve to her that could make a hard situation look easy. 

I'm thankful for having her in my life for almost thirty years. How many people could say they've had a grandmother for that long (or even two in my case)? 

I'm thankful for the lessons she passed on. How to sit up straight, look people in the eye and be able to greet strangers with a smile and handshake without collapsing under the weight of being introverted. 

I'm thankful she was able to be around long enough to meet her great-granddaughter Campbell and shine a light on what has been a mostly dark year. 

So this isn't a sad post. She's no longer suffering and in a much better place than any of us right now. It's gratitude for her life and the privilege I had to be a close part of it.