Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Lady Passes

My Aunt Frances was a true Southern lady. One who loved the color blue, sending cards, and living out the Golden Rule.

She died last week. At 88, she'd lived a good long life, so her passing came as no surprise. She was my daddy's little sister, and my middle name is compliments of her. She was not famous - or infamous, but she was a kind soul whose concern for others marked a life of neighborly-ness and service. Aunt Frances took her Christian faith seriously and put it to work everyday.

The first vivid memory I have of her was at a clean-up day at the cemetery next to our family farm in Henrietta, Tennessee. I was perhaps 4 or 5 years old. She gave me little jobs to do and seemed pleased that I stuck to her side. Then there was the time that her family visited us in Chattanooga and came to our elementary school fall carnival. Aunt Frances won a large turkey platter at one of the carnival raffles. She'd always point that platter out to me when we'd visit her home in Bordeaux. My growing up years are filled with summer and Christmas memories of her and being on the receiving end of her kindness.

Frances never missed sending birthday and Christmas cards. We used to talk on the phone frequently, but her hearing failed her over the last few years, making calls frustrating for both of us, I suspect. I resorted to sending her cards. She liked cards.

Her favorite color was blue. I think everyone in our family makes some subconscious connection between Aunt Frances and the color blue, even today. She had three wonderful sons - my cousins Jack, Tommy, and Terry - whom she loved to no end. They lovingly looked after her and my Uncle Horace, who died in 1998, throughout years of declining health.

However, another part of Aunt Frances' mythology is the fact that she always wanted a daughter. I'm not speaking out of school on this, because everyone I talked to at her funeral - family members, neighbors, church friends - mentioned it. Cousin Tommy even talked about it in his eulogy (he was supposed to be Beverly, not Tommy, by the way). My sister and I were the recipients of her mother/daughter attention whenever we visited, ranging from home permanents to hand-made clothes. Fortunately, Aunt Frances had marvelous daughters-in-law and three lovely granddaughters, in addition to two fabulous grandsons, so she ended up with lots of girls.

It was important for me to attend her funeral last week in Nashville. As her namesake-niece and daughter of her big brother, I couldn't imagine not being there. The funeral was a celebratory affair. Tommy did an outstandingly hilarious job of a eulogy that captured my aunt's humanity, humility, and love and made us laugh as well as cry. He also played her favorite hymns (good old Gospel-style).  I loved seeing my Nashville cousins again and getting reacquainted with their families. At the cemetery, I got to see my grandmother and granddaddy's graves, which I hadn't seen in years. All in all, it was a nice homecoming/home-going.

So I honor, with much love, my blue-loving, daughter-envying, card-sending, Christian-living Southern Aunt Frances. Make way as a lady passes.


Anonymous said...

Well said.
Lil Sis

Anonymous said...

A sweet gentle soul was Aunt Frances. I had not talked to her in several years when last April she phoned me one evening. She was so very hard of hearing but so proud as she told me Tommy had gotten her a new phone and she was able to hear on it so much better. I told her that it was so good to hear her voice and it was great that she had the new phone. Her response was, "WHAT?" I smiled and we continued talking for a long time with lots of loud repeats. Our family has always had hearing problems. Both my parents were quite hard of hearing and both wore hearing aids so we were always used to speaking a little loudly.
I will always treasure that last phone call from Aunt Frances. Probably one of the sweetest, purest of heart people I have ever known. Jack, Tommy and Terry are very special cousins who had a wonderful Mother.
Bro. Bill

Anonymous said...

In all of us, she will live on in our thoughts and hearts. I hope that I will be able to pass on to my two beautiful girls, her great granddaughters, the Faith, Love, and Devotion she instilled in me. As tears fall once again, I take heart in knowing she is HOME.

Amy (granddaughter to Frances)

Joy Des Jardins said...

What a beautiful tribute....I'm sorry for your loss Mary. I love the pictures... ~Joy

MaryB said...

Thanks, Joy. She was a special lady.