“Sometimes on the way to a dream you get lost and find a better one.” ~ Unknown
We all had such a good time yesterday that I caught not one, not two, but three smiles from Tony Adkins. He’s the sweetest man ever was, but he rarely smiles even when he’s super happy. So, when I caught the first smile I thought it was an anomaly. It wasn’t. Tony was smiling throughout the day. That just tickled me to death because I love him very much and want him to be happy. I’m sure to catch more smiles as the years roll on.
“Never underestimate the power of kind words” ~ Unknown
We had our fall family gathering today at Uncle Harold and Aunt Phyllis’ farm in Morgan County (that’s Eastern Kentucky for those unfamiliar). Fall’s brisk weather finally swooped in and made the day crisp and overcast. Perfection. We ate hearty foods, drank hot coffee, had our annual hay ride, shared birthday cake for Dad and Aunt Linda, and told ghost stories. In fact, that may have been the most fun of the day, sitting in a room surrounded by the elders telling stories of visitations and haints galore; the fantastic and the believable. There was something very, very different about this gathering from the others we’ve had. I sensed a calm in the air. The bittersweet thirst for those no longer with us while reveling in their memories in unadulterated happiness. Perhaps Cousin Brian was on to something during the hayride. “We are the age our parents were when we went on hayrides,” he said as we sat sandwiched between first and third generation Terrys. It happens to every generation in every family, in slow, often imperceptible ways until one day Cousin Brian sees the culmination of time in a single moment. The realization that the changing of the guard is fully underway. This is just one blessing of this family; to have sustained multiple relationships over decades that can come together and celebrate goodness. To be truly grateful for the gifts in spite of the sadness, to me, is a mark of great faith. That is something this family has in spades.
“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.”
~ Henry Ward Beecher
I fell in behind Uncle Danny as we headed off the hill from the cemetery. He’d given a good talk about Uncle Greg earlier at the funeral. He said Greg was a good brother. Those words echoed in my head as I watched Danny walk into the setting sun all alone. It was a beautiful if poignant moment. Danny is a good man, a great uncle, and I think his siblings would say he is, like Greg, a good brother, too.
“The heart that truly loves has no room for grudges.” ~ Ghanaian Proverb
Funerals are strange things really. Overwhelming grief in the midst of boundless gratitude. Between the tears are laughter, stories, and heartfelt hugs. I will not lie and say today was a bundle of fun. It was one of the saddest days I’ve ever had. Still, despite bone deep sadness, I stand in awe of just how spectacular my family is. We are a strong, hearty hillbilly bunch, and we’re more alike than probably most of us care to admit. But it’s true. We were made from salt of the Earth stock and it shows on days like this. How perfect cousin Michael’s graveside service was, urging us to be glad of the time we had with James; to be thankful in the memories we share, and not just with James, but with each other; to continue to love and accept love. Ultimately, I think grief is meant to make us grateful. And if we’re not grateful for what we have, and for those whom we love, then we’ve lost the lesson entirely. Therein lies the real tragedy. I know I’m grateful for every single member of my family. For all they are, and for all they are not, but mostly for loving each other enough to show up when it really matters: Mamaw, Papaw, Randolph, Lucille, dad, mom, Greg, Virginia, Phillip, Linda Gail, Mabel, Ralph, Linda (even somehow ‘ol crazy Vernon), Barbara, Bill, Lois, Galen, Harold, Phyllis, Darrel, Judy, Ralph Paul, Nila, Danny, Sherry, Charlene, Roger, James Trent, Marcie, Michael, Rhonda, Ann, Danny, Tamara, Curt, Jeff, Kelly, Richard, Christine, Mark, Eddie, Daphne, Missy, Mike, Renee, Aaron, Lanelle, Brian, Jessica, Eric, Evyian, Robyn, Kevin, Misty, Tina, Brittany, Robby, Kevin, Lisa, Steven, Ryan, Michelle, Jordan, Cayleigh, Codi, Austin, Dylan, Amanda, Allison, Joey, Pierce, Katy, Samantha, Ava, Sophia, Sydnie, McKenzie, Macie, AJ, Adam, Logan, Lynsey, Austin, Ashtyn, Carter, Ray, Gryffin, Gunnar, and #52 (still in the oven), plus all of Mamaw and Papaw’s nieces and nephews some of whom came to the funeral or visitation last night. My life has more blessings than stars in the sky.
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”
You met Gunnar yesterday when he posed with the oldest living Terry, Uncle IB, with just a mere 92 years and change between them. You sort of met Gunnar last July, when he was born, yet unable to be photographed because of hospital protocol for premature babies. (you know good and well, if I could have photographed him in that incubator, I would have!) Premies, of course, have a little trouble when they’re born. Medical technology has the remarkable ability to save little guys like Gunnar; babies who otherwise might not survive. Gunnar actually did very well, all things considered, and he was home in fairly short order.
The whole family is head over heels in love with him, and like I said, yesterday was the first time most of us had gotten to meet him. I thought there was going to be a fist fight over who got to hold him. First there was my mom, then Missy, then Danny (his grandfather), then this one and that one. All Gunnar really wanted was his mommy, Brittany. Daddy Robby even tried to take him for a ride on the swing but he was having none of it (the photo is actually pretty funny if you don’t mind the fact that he looks like he’s being tortured). From the moment I saw him with all those tubes in his tiny body, I knew he was special. He is more than that, though. He is extraordinary. I’m certain I speak for the whole family when I say we’re privileged to have him join the clan. Did I mention that he’s extraordinary?
“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky;
there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.”
~ Victor Hugo
I have eight uncles, all brothers to my dad. Pictured here, left to right, are Phillip Ray, Danny, James Trent, Gregory, and Darrell. Papaw used to joke that he had a baseball team of boys and a basketball team of girls. That’s 14 children total. In those dozen-plus children were two sets of twins: a set of girls, and a set of boys (both fraternal). Mamaw’s sister, Pauline, had 12 children. To her, the twins counted as a single birth each, and therefore, they were even on the birth count. Mamaw disagreed, rightfully. I can’t imagine life without any one of my aunts and uncles. They’re each so unique, and important.