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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Freely, Freely Give

Dear Mom,

You always loved my blog, and I stopped writing it this spring, since Facebook had turned into an easier, faster way to share experiences. Plus, I’d really stopped writing, and I never got into the Blogger app for the iPhone.

But I know that writing will be an important way for me to grieve – you taught me about the healing power of writing, as did Miss Sheila, when she taught Sunday School and gave me my very first journal.

There is LOTS I want to tell you about the funeral. It was amazing! And we needed that, because that last week over Christmas was awful. I hope time will help me and Leigh Ann forget it, and I’m going to try to stop even thinking about it, because that’s not what we need to focus on.

Anyway, the thing I am thinking about today – and what people are talking about on Facebook, which you would love – is the way we shared some of your special belongings with people you love. For someone who did not make a lot of money, I think you were practiced the "radical generosity" we should demonstrate as people of faith. In fact, as I followed Cookie out to her home with the Snipes family rocking chairs for her porch (hopefully there will be a photo to come!), I found myself singing that hymn: Freely, freely you have received. Freely, freely give...  

Of course you know how amazing Miss Betty and Miss Patsy have been throughout this experience. Juliane, Debbie and Sabrina (I’m going to drop the Misses here because (a) I’m an adult now and (b) it’s just faster) were also there for us in such a special way after you died. (And Big George and Mark and Billy too, but you know how ladies just rally around a funeral!)

So, the first “bequest” was maybe the Saturday after you died (the days just run together) when I opened the curio cabinet for “Aunt” Debbie. (Some people who read this won’t know we only have five “blood” aunts: Tillie, Sandy, Judy, Debra and Nanami; in Quincy we call people aunts “like it’s going out of style,” as you would have said.) We gave her the ballerina Annalee dolls for Maxwell and McRee. Aunt Debbie dropped off this recent photo of them:

The other “special little girls” we took care of were Lara Leigh’s, Emily’s, and Marcelle’s. Lynnen and Ellasyn got the Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny music figurines from the curio cabinet. We had an extra-special “presentation ceremony,” as Juliane was babysitting them and Frances was at the house sorting photos. I made the girls sit down on the floor (aren’t little girls just the sweetest? Benjamin and William would have been crawling up the walls!), and I explained to them that Peter Rabbit was Leigh Ann’s, so he was going to Lynnen – the “big sister.” Since Benjamin Bunny was mine, he went to Ellasyn, the “little sister.” 

They played the part perfectly and acted just as delighted as I could have imagined. All of the grown-ups were crying, of course. I am SO GLAD Frances was there. It was a true God Thing (I’m going to start calling those Cheryl Things). If I’d listened carefully and heard that Peter Rabbit plays “It’s a Small World,” I might have lost it, but I didn’t realize that until later that night, when I went to the Hackneys’ and entertained the girls with some CSS-style “games.”

Next, I told them to go into the living room, open the curio cabinet, and pick out one more special thing. I wouldn’t have cared what they picked – but they chose the tiny little girl figurines that said June and September. Lynnen picked June, which had blonde hair (big sister!), and Ellasyn picked the brunette September (little sister!). Kind of ironic, since I was actually the one who was a bit blonde for a while, but LA thinks my hair has gotten darker than hers since I moved to NYC (and let’s not even talk about who’s already had to start coloring the greys!).

Then we let them pick some stuffed animals out of the holiday bins. First I made them pick one for Lawson, since you wouldn’t want her to be left out. (I am kinda hoping the girls will just play with those music figurines and enjoy them, and who knows, maybe they’ll be broken before little Lawson grows up and sees she doesn’t have one!) Lawson got the Beanie Baby bear holding the Hershey’s kiss, and we decided that was just right, because Miss Cheryl never got to meet Lawson, but she would have given her a kiss if she did.

I hope no one will feel left out reading this, but obviously those Hackney girls are special to us on both sides, given the long connection with Frances, Virginia, Bobbie and Ellen on the Suber side, and the fact Leigh Ann and I helped raise those Hackney boys!

Other special “little girl bequests” included Easter Annalees for Katherine’s Julia, the toy cradle for Emily’s Taylor and Annabelle, and the stuffed Easter bears dressed like a bunny and a chick for Marcelle’s Georgia and Gracie.

I need to call Aunt Lil and tell her she should get that cradle painted and send me (read: you) the bill! Lynnen and Ellasyn were too precious playing in the cradle as Juliane “babysat” it for delivery.

Oh -- and it wasn't until the next day that we found the books in the attic! You saved just the right stuff.  

Anyway, back to the gift circuit. Neil has given your Hummels a home in the Hamptons:
(We suspect Nate may be trolling eBay to talk Neil into selling them...LOL.) 

Mason LOVES her D.C. book and mug:

Olivia got the cross from your dresser and plans on taking it to college with her next fall:

I’m not going to talk about all of the gifts, because a couple of them were just special and private, but I know you would have loved every single one. 

We found special homes for some of your Saint Anne collection, with more to come. How did I not know about that?! Leigh Ann did. Somehow I missed the fact you’d started collecting icons of your patron saint and namesake. And of course there is a bitter irony she was the patron saint of grandmothers, an honor we never bestowed upon you. Excuse me – YET – we have not had children YET. (More on that to come…as you know, I’ve said for years I am okay if I don’t get to have children because someone has to wear fabulously expensive shoes, take awesome trips and hang on to her original ta-tas! But if there is still a nursery to come, you will be a very special part of it, and we’ll tell you about that later.)

There is ONE gift that was probably my very favorite one to bestow, something that is shiny and bright, went to a good home, and will hopefully be making a very special appearance soon. It will DEFINITELY be photo-worthy.

The experience of your funeral and the week following made me realize how much of you I have in me. But honestly, I think the thing it REALLY made me realize is how much of you is in LOTS of your students. I hadn’t even clued in on your affinity for nicknames until they started cropping up in posts from DB, Cellie Mae, Say Fray, etc. And then there are more that I knew… Mr. Phillip, Clarice, Luce, Bird, etc. (It was so sweet when I saw G’Daddy at the Sawano Club, and he said, “Well, hey there, Loretta!”)

All right, well, this is getting long, and it’s like you used to say about going to the therapist: “They limit you to an hour because after that, you start to repeat yourself!”

As I tried to wrap up, it occurred to me this series should have a “signature close.” I never made it to the big leagues in broadcasting, but I can appreciate the power of a trademark signoff like, “And so it goes,” or whatever. So, still so I’m going to go ahead and start that now, with something that builds on the foundation you gave me for loving words and language.

In Portuguese, there is a word called saudade. There is no real English equivalent. The closest translation would be “longing,” but Brazilians use it as a complete thought in and of itself. Sergio and other friends will simply write “saudade” on my wall and nothing else to let me know they are missing me.

If you look it up on Wikipedia (and of course I have, the last time I considered putting it on Facebook and trying to explain the full sentiment), it says it’s not just a longing for things past, it’s about a longing for things that never were. I think there are many layers of richness and meaning that we could analyze about how that impacts our family, especially a life cut short at 64 with so many adventures and experiences still to come. That is our greatest mourning, and hopefully these writings will help me feel like I still get to have you along for the ride. But for now…



P.S. You will love this. Gretchen was texting me last night: “You and LA don’t be strangers now. Come back soon. Get that fucking baby bed from yer pop’s house.” She said, “I just told Mason that CSS’s departure on that ‘train bound for glory’ has kept me drunk for a week. I have no muse for my FB statuses.” I told her the “glory train” would have made a better line for the eulogy than “arms of Jesus.” Then I told Ranie, and she said, “More like a bus bound for glory!” HA!!!! Do those girls have the A answers or what?!

P.P.S. I think the one thing we should have put in the eulogy was your “bus plan” for the out of town wedding, the way you would amuse yourself making lists of who you’d invite to ride with you along to Charlotte or Durham. But now it is making the rounds. If one of us manages to get hitched in the next year or two, I think we’ll have to charter a whole fleet! Maybe Ranie and I can make up a new list at our next Game Night.


Karen said...

The Wedding Bus! Love it! We talked of it often.

Michelle Mims said...

I knew it. Something told me to go further back. So I did. And I saw that while most months had 3-4 writings, January was packed. And I had to know why. I knew she loved your writings, she told me so when she told me I should start reading your blog. That "our" humor ran along the same lines and I would enjoy it. She was right.