Saturday, February 16, 2008

Goodbye to Grace

The day began with a phone call from a neighbor on the other side of the mountain. She had sad news- Grace Henderson, one of the last of the old timers I've known in my years in the mountains, died early this morning.For most of their married life, Grace and her husband Paul lived in the house she'd been born in -- with no electricity, no phone, and few of the comforts most folks would require. They never had children but were friends with everyone, natives and transplants alike. Everyone loved and honored them -- seeing in them the last of a kind. The picture on the right is of Grace with Paul at her 90th birthday party almost three years ago. It was a huge party with friends from the county and friends from out of state, all gathered to celebrate a very special lady.

I visited with Grace and Paul a few weeks ago. Grace, though much disabled by arthritis, was as bright and perky and interested in local news as ever. I only wish I could have known Grace as a girl -- the smile on her face and the twinkle in her eyes hint at what a lively charmer she must have been as a young woman.

Grace was, of course, one of the women who served as an inspiration for Miss Birdie -- most especially in the day book she kept, recording the weather, who came by to visit, and such daily incidents as comprised her quiet life.

The news of our old friend's passing was the beginning of the day. And then, in the afternoon, I went to my great-nephew Jack's first birthday party. Such a contrast of emotions -- sorrow at the loss of a valued friend; happiness at a joyful family celebration of a life just a year underway. Tonight at dinner -- a noisy family affair including Jack's grandmother and aunt, in the county for the occasion -- the two sides of this existence seemed drawn together as we toasted Grace -- the old woman whose race was run -- and Jack, the little boy for whom it's just begun. Somehow it seemed right and proper to be acknowledging both ends of life.

Whenever I spoke with Grace on the phone, she would end the conversation, not with 'Goodbye,' but with 'We love you.'

We love you, Gracie.

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