This past month, the world celebrated women. While I firmly believe International Women’s Day should be everyday, it was powerful to see women and girls stepping up to show the world that we are strong, capable, and talented. It made me think about who the amazing women are in my life and one person in particular came to mind.
Rowena Jaap Fullinwider, or as I knew her: Grandmama.
Grandmama is my mom’s mom and she passed away a few years ago from ovarian cancer. But her cancer didn’t stop her from leaving an amazing mark on this world and on me. She married a Navy Captain, raised three children while living around the world, and later in life started her small business: Rowena’s Jam and Jelly Factory. She had an unwavering faith in God and was Virginia-famous for her almond pound cake. She fought her cancer for years but never let it define her. She was fearless.
I was walking through a department store at the mall in Norfolk, Virginia (my mom’s hometown). It was nearly Christmas and the mall was crazy with last minute shoppers. I spotted a black leather bracelet with silver letters that spelled the word “FEARLESS.” It was perfect for Grandmama.
I gave it to her for Christmas that year and she wore it faithfully. She never knew how much it meant to me to see her treasure such a small gift. But I think it was more than just a bracelet for both of us. To me, it was a representation of who she was in my mind. Grandmama, no doubt, was afraid and anxious about battling her disease but, at the same time, she was fearless.
If there is one thing I learned from my grandmother it’s that being fearless isn’t being without anxiety - it is staring fear and crisis in the face and not allowing it to knock you down.
Grandmama was full of snippets of wisdom and words of comfort. She always used to say “Hand all your problems up to God on a silver platter.” While some Christians use hardship as a reason to be angry at God, she glorified Him in everything she did. Her saying has been an incredible comfort to me in recent years because I watched her lead by example, handing platter after platter up to God with an admirable calm.
She also used to say, “nothing can’t be solved with a slice of almond pound cake.” And as always, she was right. She had a firm dessert-first policy and watching her eyes light up when she ate almond pound cake is one of my favorite memories of her. To this day, I fill up on dessert at the dining hall and am sure to savor the bites of almond pound cake I get to eat in my life. They are a special gift I will never take for granted.
So in looking back on this celebration of women everywhere, I encourage you to look around you and think about the women in your life. They might not be here on earth forever, but their legacy can live on in your memory. I am so proud to be Rowena’s granddaughter. She was powerful, determined, and beautiful. I aim to model my life after hers. I hope to live fearlessly.