Ferices Truth Holmes ("Mawmaw") finding ways, even in a nursing home, to live life fully with a smile

Farices Truth Holmes, born August 22,1927 and died July 15, 2020, was just one person to the world; but to the many ‘one’s who knew her, she was the world, and meant the world, to them.

By Denise Connell, Publisher

While the world was awed by the first transatlantic telephone call made from New York City to London in 1927, there was a tiny call – first breaths made – from a baby girl born in Macon, Georgia, that no one heard but her family.

While the world tracked the movements of World War II aircraft and ships across the Atlantic in 1940, no one tracked the movements of the now 13 year old girl and her family across the southern landscape from Georgia to Florida.

And while the world traced the lives of one celebrity after another, one civil rights activist after another, one president, inventor, author, mover and shaker after another from 1940 to 2020 – no one traced, or followed, or heralded the life of this girl… turned young adult… turned mother… turned neighbor… friend… grandmother those eight decades she lived at 19 West 18th Street in South Apopka. No one but her family. No one but her neighbors. No one but her friends, and church, and community within the five mile radius she could walk.

Farices Truth Holmes, born August 22,1927 and died July 15, 2020, was just one person to the world; but to the many ‘one’s who knew her, she was the world, and meant the world, to them.

I first learned of Holmes last Thursday when The Apopka Voice received an email asking if we could share an invitation of Thanksgiving blessing for five families. The email was from Apopka resident Cherlette McCullough, Holmes’ granddaughter, who wanted to honor her “Mawmaw” by giving to families in need this season – specifically single moms, those affected by COVID, or struggling with cancer.

It is not unusual for a person to be stirred to give to those in need at Thanksgiving or Christmas; but it is unusual to hear such action as a response to the passing of one’s relative. You expect grieving, yes. Sorrow, yes. Going inward… lamenting the loss… carrying the weight of darkness, yes… for the light of this precious life has gone out. These are natural, and even healthy responses during times of loss. And expected.

What is unexpected, less common, is the step beyond the grief – the urge to give, acted upon; the desire to honor, manifested. What is unexpected is when loss drives a person to more life, to living in a way that the light of this cherished person keeps on shining in tangible, other-focused, and impacting ways.

Unless…

Unless you’ve held star-shine in your hands and felt it in your heart.

Have you ever seen a shooting star? You see it suddenly come to life and blaze across the sky, an unexpected surprise, an arc of brilliance that is all too brief. And, as soon as it ends, you want to see it again. You keep looking to the heavens, hoping the blaze and brilliance will come once more. It’s rare and beautiful and stays with you long after the light fades.

Farices Holmes was such a light, leaving her family and friends with singular and impacting memories and moments that sparkled like stars in their hands.

“She was a woman of great faith, love and humor,” wrote McCullough. She had a “heart for helping people… sense of humor in spite of life’s challenges and… ability to think about any situation and come up with a solution. She always reminded me to keep God first, and to never let go of [His] hand.”

Her granddaughter shared that Mawmaw “loved her hometown of Apopka”, most especially “the relationships she built over the years with other Apopkans”. She “enjoyed being able to go to the market… church… the hair salon, and mechanic all within a five mile radius. She loved where she lived, across from Phillis Wheatley Elementary School, because she loved her daily routine of watching the kids go to school, get on the bus…” That and gardening. “She thoroughly enjoyed being in her yard… gardening and purchasing things for her yard.” This was her community. Her family. Her life. She was proud of it, cherished it, and found ways to bring light to it wherever she was.

“Mawmaw”, seated in the middle, surrounded by family Thanksgiving 2019

That light came in a variety of ways. McCullough remembers the physical strength of her Mawmaw, and the fun memories that stayed with her because of it. “She would put me and my cousin, Kerry, in the back basket of her three-wheeler bike and ride us all around the neighborhood. Keep in mind, we were no lightweight children,” McCullough shared with a reminiscing smile. She also recalled Mawmaw’s ‘pretties’. Laughing, McCullough shared that Mawmaw’s home was “high fashioned decorated” and we were “not allowed to play in the house or walk back and forth. She would say ‘Sit down’ and ‘Do not touch Mawmaw pretties’… meaning do not touch her lavish decor.” The laughter accompanying the memory told more than the words conveyed. Mawmaw had style, yes, and she loved her grandkids, deeply; but while the love was clear, so were her firm lines with those she valued, teaching respect, and manners, and how to keep hold of those things held most dear.

Most dearly held by Holmes, besides her family, was helping those in need.

When she was still living on her own on 18th Street, she would often go to the market and purchase groceries for her neighbors and their children who were struggling. And when, in her last years she had to transition to a nursing home in town, she continued to find ways of making life a little better, a little brighter, for those around her. She would often share her own food with other residents, and when she would learn of a friend there who didn’t have family like she did, who didn’t have anyone buying things for them like she did, Holmes would make sure her own family would purchase “goodies” for them, making sure her nursing home neighbors knew they were not alone.

A shooting star finds its way to blaze and shine, no matter the where or when, no matter how long or short the spans. If you’re lucky enough to see one or two in your life… if you’re lucky to know one or two like Holmes… you know the cherished moments melt like snowflakes, but last a lifetime in your heart.

McCullough felt this. Feels this. Knows this full well. It was her Mawmaw who brought light in so many ways, and who inspired her – not so much with her words as with the life she lived – to keep that light shining bright after she had passed.

And that’s just what McCullough and her husband are doing, and why she sent the email last week. “Would you help me spread the word to Apopka residents?” Their way of honoring their grandmother who died at the age of 93 “due to complications from COVID-19”? Bless five families.

Passing on the light. Keeping the blaze of brilliant love shining bright.

The details are in the flier below. Take it, share it, get the word out to those you love. Nominate yourself or a family you know that’s struggling. There is criteria to qualify: Be a single mother, live in the Apopka area, have three or more children, be affected by COVID-19. Three families will receive the blessing of a Thanksgiving meal, and two families who are wrestling through the challenges of cancer, will be blessed through the services of the local nonprofit Compassionate Hands & Hearts Breast Cancer Outreach. All of these blessings are being passed on from Holmes’ legacy of love, now through the hands and hearts of McCullough and her husband.

Author Marie Benton Lyons Ray wrote, “We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it before it is too late”.

Holmes lived her life as she lived her moments – fully, generously, with love leading the way. She left these moments and memories sparkling in her family’s hands, and they too are living their moments this season fully, generously, with love leading the way.

Thank you Farices Truth Holmes. Thank you Cherlette McCullough, to you and your family. Your one life given in love inspired, and inspires.

One moment at a time… one person choosing to act… multiplied across our lifetimes… makes the darkest nights shine bright.

What about you and I?

We, too, have moments and opportunities with our families and neighbors, everyday, “sparkling like a star… and melting like a snowflake”. We, too, can be lights in the darkest night, this season and beyond.

The Apopka sky is waiting.

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