By Sean Yoes
Last week in this column I wrote, “An Open Love Letter to Black Women.” The woman who filled my heart with more love than any other person on earth, my Beloved Grandmother Beatrice Yoes, transitioned back home to our Heavenly Father, March 31.
Indeed it was a life well lived (there are hundreds in this city that loved her immensely); in a few weeks she would have been 102 years old and simply stated, she was everything to me.
Beatrice Portia Robinson Yoes was born April 23, 1917 in Chester, Maryland on the Eastern Shore. She came to Baltimore when she was a little girl with her mother Ada and her sister Elizabeth.
Let me give you a sense of how long she lived and what she witnessed in the history of this country. In 1934, when she was 17 President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his official capacity as President of the United States, honored the last living Confederate veterans of the Civil War.
She lived through the end of World War I and all of America’s wars that followed. She lived through the Great Depression and Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement and the Baltimore Riots of 1968 and the Baltimore Uprising of 2015.
She worked for Baltimore City Public Schools for 40 years. She was a faithful servant of her church Ames Memorial United Methodist Church, on the corner of Baker and Carey in West Baltimore for at least 80 years.
And for exactly 53 years and eight months she poured her love into me unconditionally.
She introduced me to comic books when I was a little boy; every weekend I came to her house, she had the latest adventures of Spiderman, Daredevil, Captain America, Luke Cage Hero for Hire, The Avengers, The Black Panther (Marvel Jungle Action) and the rest of the Marvel Universe, waiting for me to devour. Those stories of superhuman adventurers fired my imagination and ignited my desire to be a storyteller. She sent me to the world-famous Peabody Conservatory of Music, which fueled my outsized love of and eclectic appreciation of music. Concurrently, she bought me an electric guitar, which I taught myself to play.
We loved to travel together; she would take me with her to the Methodist Convocation every year in the Pocono Mountains. We took the train from Baltimore to Orlando, Florida and Disney World in the early 1970s. I recently wrote the following about our favorite mode of travel, the train:
When I was a little boy, my Beloved Grandmother would take me with her almost every time she hit the road; traveling with her is one of my favorite memories of my time with my favorite person in the world. And our favorite mode of travel was the train. That’s why to this day when I pass Penn Station in Baltimore, one of America’s original grand old train stations, I often wax nostalgic. Historically, it was Baltimore’s gateway to the rest of the country. Today, I still prefer to travel to New York by train from Penn Station, which I’ve done dozens, maybe hundreds of times over the years. And it never gets old for me. Ultimately, for me Penn Station represents freedom and the promise of adventure. And it conjures beautiful memories of a simpler time and the love of my favorite person in the world.
Up until she was about 99, my Grandmother left the house just about everyday to join her friends at a couple of senior centers around the city. But, during the last couple of years, the Old Girl was finally getting tired and slowing down. I said to her last year that I wanted her to stick around because I had some things I wanted to show her. Thankfully, I was able to publish my book, which I dedicated to her and my mother. She seemed genuinely delighted.
But, ultimately it is an exercise in futility to try to fully capture what this woman meant to me; I cannot.
At the end of the day unconditional love is God’s greatest gift to us. The Creator offers it freely, but we often find ways to obscure it.
When I got here July 1, 1965 God had in place an earthly vessel for the transmission of his unconditional love from Him to me, through her.
I rejoice for her life, I’m encouraged by her spirit as she takes her rest from this earth.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and is the author of ‘Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.’
This article originally appeared in The Afro.