Saturday, May 2, 2015
Daddy's little sister
I seem to be spending quite a bit of my time these days at cemeteries saying goodbye. Gerry and I have reached an age where all of our relatives and older friends are passing, and the reality of mortality is smacking us in the face.
Yesterday we drove to Asheboro to say goodbye to my aunt, my daddy's little sister. We called her Tootsie, but her real name was Margaret Lee. She was a dear person to me. She treated me like I was one of her own children. She had two boys and in the summers when I came to stay with her, she was thrilled to have a little girl around. She was calm and quiet and easy to be with. She laughed all the time, her eyes always crinkled up with a smile of mischief.
My dad had an older sister and a younger sister. Just the three of them. Their mother died in childbirth when my dad was 12. Their father was a scoundrel. They had to go find him when their mother died. Can you imagine, three little kids, walking around in Walnut Cove trying to find their daddy to let him know their mother was dead? He wasn't very skilled in child raising and the three kids clung to each other and basically raised themselves. The three of them were very close. You could feel their bonds whenever they were together. Tootise and my dad could have been twins, they looked so much alike. More and more these days, when I look in the mirror I see Tootise's face.
This is her youngest son, my cousin. We were very close growing up. I would spend summers at their house, way out in the country on a patch of red North Carolina clay, playing in their barn, walking down to the river and playing in the old wooden covered bridge, running around all over the place getting dirty, things my mom would have never allowed. It was freedom. Kenneth had one of those metal football games that vibrated the little football players down the field and I still remember playing with that. How many of you remember those?
This big old bear of a man cried and cried yesterday. My heart broke for him. He was so very close to his mother. He took care of her for months before she died. She never had to go into a nursing home, she died in her own bed. Her children saw to her every need. It was so good to see my childhood friend and give him a hug, both of us missing the brother and sister we loved so much.
It was good to see family. The last time we were all together we were burying my dad's other sister. Why do we only see our cousins at funerals? We make promises to call, come visit, but I barely have time to see my own child and my friends these days. How is it we used to see each other all the time when I was growing up and now it's only at funerals........
The funeral was in true southern style at a little country church. I wish Wesley could have been there, great material for a southern novel! My "people" don't do church services much at funerals. They do a graveside service. This one was priceless. It rained all the way from Chapel Hill to Asheboro, but just as we arrived at the cemetery a little patch of blue sky broke out. The last time I was at this church, it was snowing and we were burying my uncle. It was a chilly day, but the weather offered a tiny bit of sun for us.
The service started out with Elvis singing Amazing Grace from a CD the funeral guy played for us. There was a neighbors dog running around between all of us, begging to be petted, cars passing on the road, wind blowing briskly. And there we all stood, listening to Elvis. It was almost comical, it eased the tears that were stinging my eyes.
Then the preacher stepped up to speak. He had on a silver bolo with a cross on it, cowboy boots, western cut suit and a tooled leather cover on his bible. He used words like tarry and ponder and said I reckon a lot. His words were lyrical and profound, and unexpected from such a country boy. It was one of the best services I have attended lately. He spoke of the reality you experience when you come to a cemetery, and how it makes you think about your own death, and it does. Of course he talked about Jesus and how we all need to be saved, no good southern baptist preacher is going to pass up an opportunity to talk to you about salvation. He mentioned our sovereign God, I loved his way of phrasing things. I would go to his church just to hear the way he uses language.
All and all it was a day to ponder, as the preacher said. It was good to see family, my mom and her husband came up, cousins I haven't seen in ages were there, folks that knew me when I was a little girl were there. The church ladies that bring food were there. They brought strawberry shortcake and cookies and a table laden with sugar. Coffee, coke, sprite, more sugar, caffeine. I would have liked a carrot to munch on :)
So today is a new day. I am off to work, tomorrow I am giving a baby shower for a co worker, celebrating a new life life coming into the world. The circle of life........
peace Aunt Tootsie, I love you