My sunshine turned 100 years old

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Susan Heilman

My great-grandma, her beautiful smile, and me.

On Dec. 13, 2021, in the wake of the demanding and challenging trials the world has provided, my great-grandmother advanced to an accomplishment that I still find difficult to wrap my head around. A woman who has only known me for less than one-fifth of her life, but has been a paramount influence in the entirety of mine, has turned 100. 

For many of her birthdays, I have sung the song “You Are My Sunshine” for her, her friends, and our family per her request during her birthday parties. Although this year will be different due to the uncontrollable factors preventing such a party, I still wanted to find a way to share why my great-grandmother is my sunshine. 

As can probably be assumed, she is one of the most experienced and therefore wisest individuals in the world. Because of this, I trust her opinions and values wholeheartedly, especially those of love.

In vivid colors, I recall the many times she has said “I love you” to me. She puts intense thought into the combination of those three words; of course, I believe this is because she has reached an understanding of what love means, that it is greater than any of the rest of us have. Her love is what makes her the brilliant, bold, and bright individual that she is.

As she sifts through the memories inside of her mind and selects the stories she wishes to share, it’s simple to collect that she loved and lost an extraordinary amount throughout her life. Constantly, I think she’s trying to share with me to love as strongly and as grippingly as I can while I’m still able to, and that love is infinite—especially hers. 

Constantly, I think she’s trying to share with me to love as strongly and as grippingly as I can while I’m still able to, and that love is infinite—especially hers. ”

She has also so frequently shown me that there are so many more ways to say ‘I love you.’ On cards that I’ve kept in a box under my bed for as long as I can remember from all of my birthdays and other holidays, her beautiful cursive handwriting consistently makes an appearance along with the phrase ‘You are special.’ These words are like an incantation because coming from her, they feel true. 

She also says I love you with her smile: one of the most beautiful and brightest displays and one of my favorite things. Making my great-grandmother smile or laugh is something that feels like such an accomplishment. 

I feel beyond lucky to get to experience her love and the brightness of her smile. To be taught the meaning of love as much as I have is a blessing that I think of every day, but especially when I get to absorb her rays.

Happy birthday, great-grandma, I hope it’s everything you wish it to be and more. You deserve the world, for all the empowerment, influence, and joy you have added to it—especially mine. I love you an inexplicable amount, but it’s an amount that I’m sure you understand better than anyone else can.

Thank you for being my sunshine and for brightening the dark with your love.