At the loss of a sister, six earthly angels swoop in to comfort a grieving family.
Posted in , Oct 12, 2016
Today's guest blogger is Melissa Roberson.
Their names are Diane, Janet, Pat, Patsy, Scottye and Susan. And I put those names in alphabetical order because they are all of first rank in my heart. They live on this earth, but they all have wings. And this is my love letter to them.
When my sister, Nancy, remarried 10 years ago and moved to Oxford, Mississippi, after many years in Memphis, she found home and humor in these six women and their spouses. There were luncheons and dinners, afternoons of mah jonng, resplendent Saturday outdoor buffets in The Grove before Ole Miss home football games. Travel was involved—whether a cruise in Alaska or Scotland; road trips to bowl games and baseball games. A tapestry of friendship was woven.
My sister Nancy was elegant. Immaculate. Tall and fashionable, funny. She never left the house without the requisite mascara and lipstick, hair styled. Everything neat and in its place. I, on the other hand, the little sister, was always trailing dust bunnies, my drooping skirt hems hastily reinforced by scotch tape, runs in my stockings—back when I bothered with such things. I was perennially the little sister in awe of her flawlessness.
And she loved architectural beauty and design. The art and rugs and furniture in her house sang out her spirit.
This last year turned hellish for Nancy, who endured a series of medical crises that left her scared and vulnerable. She hated the indignity of hospital gowns, procedures, the many tubes coming out of her arms and throat. And I, on my visits, despised how hospital life had rendered her helpless, pale and unkempt. She hated all of it, I knew.
Her husband, Curtis, kept vigil each time in the ICU waiting room. He was never alone. And he was never wanting for food, comfort where it could be had.
When Nancy died on September 1 (I still choke on that phrase) six Southern angels let themselves into her home, cleaning and organizing it before we, the exhausted and heart-broken family came home from the hospital for that last time.
There had been a community tragedy just before Nancy’s death. And the church had to deal with the services for a teen-aged boy before we could make arrangements. So there were five, endless days to get through before her funeral.
Each day, that core group of women came to the house in the morning with the day’s provisions for lunch and dinner. This being the South, that meant casseroles and beef tenderloins, pickled shrimp, salads, cakes, cookies, pies…and the occasional jar of dill pickle juice for martinis, for those who cared to indulge.
They pulled out Nancy’s best china and the chest of sterling silver (“where the heck is the pickle fork?” one angel muttered while sorting through the serving pieces). Nancy entertained with aplomb. She would have wanted the best stuff out.
It was Labor Day weekend and the florists were closed. Another angel hauled home armfuls of grocery store flowers, creating a dining room centerpiece worthy of Martha Stewart.
Everything they did, they did because they loved my sister, and they did it in a way that would have made her proud. They treated her home and her things with respect, honoring all that she had loved and what had given her pleasure. Nancy, who was all about grace and beauty and hospitality, was honored in their efforts. It was the most loving of gifts.
Death stops many things. But never an angel.
"Thank You all. Every book, magazine, and letter means a lot to us when we are away from home. It gives us hope, confidence, happiness, strength and pride that someone is there for us." - Former Navy Sailor, Part of Operation Gratitude