Our summer started two weeks ago and we have just put away school books and report cards. This summer will be remembered in lots of ways but one is with regret and sadness. Isabella and Elissa (and Adam and I) lost a very special person in our lives... Mama Kitty :) Kitty had been my neighbor as far back as I could remember. I grew up playing boardgames in her floor, putting up her fussy fussy Christmas tree and trying on her satin gowns, lacy robes and furry houseshoes (she was all of 5' tall and wore a size 5 shoe). One of my childhood memories and the first funeral I can remember was for her dog, Brandy. He was very special to her and all the neighborhood children laid flowers at her grave after the pastor spoke (yes there was a coffin and a pastor). Kitty didn't have children of her own and lost her husband too early. Through the years ties were broken and I went on to do my own thing, going off to college and all that stuff.
As an adult, I rekindled our friendship about 15 years ago. I went back to helping her put up her Christmas tree and visiting with her when I could. I introduced her to Adam when he was still my boyfriend :) When we were married, she crocheted us a wedding blanket. A few years later she crocheted baby blankets when our girls came along. She really was a special person to us. She wanted to be called Mama Kitty by the girls and so she was. We tried to make short visits to see her when we were in Columbia. We'd stop in... she'd put out her cigarette for us and slowly make her way to the door. We'd hug her and fear we'd break her and she'd turn down Little House on the Prairie playing on the TV in the background. We'd sit and talk a little, all the while knowing someone was expecting us somewhere else and no matter what we were doing we just didn't have time enough. I wish I wouldn't have worried about it because now she is gone. We exchanged lots of cards and always tried to squeeze in a visit on major holidays. The girls drew and colored pictures for her and she received one of the homemade family calendars I made every year at Christmas (except this one - I was too busy to make them). This year I dropped the ball more than once with her... if I had known how much she needed me or how much we meant to her, I would like to think I would have done more.
We called her on Elissa's 6th birthday, May 22nd. I told her I knew she'd want to speak to her and she apologized for not calling. I told her I knew how days can run together and she'd given the girls birthday presents already but I just knew she'd want to say "Hey". She spoke to Elissa and the last words I said to her were "I love you" and "bye". Several days later on Isabella's 8th birthday we got a phone call from Pappy (my dad and Kitty's longtime neighbor) and found out Mama Kitty had passed away. Sadly, the death certificate was dated May 22nd, 10 days earlier, Elissa's birthday. (Mama Kitty journaled daily and her last entry was also May 22nd). She had a massive heart attack and hopefully the last words she heard were I love you. She didn't have an official family left and we were the closest thing. She had planned every detail of her funeral and even written her own obituary. We confirmed her planning and tried to celebrate her life, the sweetest things we could think of. The pastor we asked to conduct the service was terrific and shared the love of Christ in a very straightforward and grace-filled way.
A few days later we had to pick up things from the coroner's office and I found a 5 page letter of plans she had left for me. One very special thing she requested was missed. She asked that I say her eulogy. Considering the funeral had passed, there wasn't much that I could do but now I am making every effort to honor her wishes and honor her in the things she thought meant so much. One of the most special things I can do now is to continue and try to fulfill the things she asked. One of her request was to sale her house and use the money to help pay for college and weddings for the girls. As I go through mounds and mounds of shells, candles, old cards, jewelry, tiny little shoes and confusing paperwork, I find that she was more unique than I could have imagined and she loved me more than I knew. I am so thankful for the things God taught me through our friendship... one of the biggest things is sometimes when He tells us to care for widows and orphans it is because they need us but they can also bless us. Kitty was a 68 year old widow and orphan. Thank You Kitty for blessing us.
The things I remember and love: fussy nightgowns, dog funerals, orange candles, purple bedrooms, little shoes, long painted nails, super southern drawl, mail order gifts, quirky girly handwriting, Daniel Odonnell, and Virginia Slim 120 menthols...