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  • Reyn Kinzey


How can I explain my grandmother to the world?

Her name was Marion Reynolds Lawton, but we all called her Ba. Why, I have no idea, but it seems to have been a tradition well-established by my older brother before I came on the scene. So, Ba, then.

Ba’s signature statement, “we’re going to live ‘til we die,” could have come from Hemmingway, but I doubt it. Even though she came from a very literate family, Ba never saw much point in reading anything except the King James Bible.

Ba wasn’t political, but she remembered men who remembered fighting for Lee and Jackson, in the valley, at Chancellorsville, in the Wilderness. People will tell you that those men fought to preserve slavery, but that’s not really true. Our people were poor. Slavery was mostly a rich man’s game. They fought to defend what they considered their country, below the Mason-Dixon line.

Ba wasn’t political, but she made sure I grew up an FDR Democrat, because Roosevelt “cared about people.” She was hardcore Baptist, but she tolerated, even supported my Catholicism, because she had lived with Catholics, and “they care about people” (Ba, maybe you give us too much credit).

Ba didn’t possess very much when she died at 103. The last time I saw her, she said that she felt fine, and that she was going to sing. She sang some Baptist hymn that I didn’t know, the Celestial City, a song she used to sing with her twin sister when they rode their preacher-father’s circuit in the rural counties outside of Richmond. After her funeral, a double rainbow appeared over my back door.

Ba didn’t possess very much when she died, and what little she had came to me: a plastic figurine of the Holy Family, Joseph protecting Mary and the Child, and a well-worn copy of the King James Bible (red letter edition).

When I pass, those items will have no meaning to anyone; they won’t any longer be symbols to anyone of Ba’s happy life, blessed by grace and faith.

And so, a world will end, but the world will endure, a field of action, where “we live ‘til we die.” World without end. Amen. Rest in peace, Ba.

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