Saturday, February 21, 2009

Surprise! Its not your birthday!

And fabric shopping is one of my all time favorite pass times. I decided a day all to myself would be a great thing. And it was. With nothing but walmart in town, I ventured off to Temple making Hobby Lobby the first stop. Nothing in purple that would work. So I went to Hancock and spent over an hour there. Not being able to decide which I wanted, I needed to call Sally and get her opinion. A really good time to have forgotten my phone. None of these choices seemed to be her anyway. So I left empty handed. Next stop a nice lunch all by myself. I actually like to do that, eat alone in restaurants, even though I dont know anyone else that does. So after all the shopping I could handle, I finally got home in the early afternoon. I think that was maybe the very first time in my life I had left town without telling a single sole where I was going. And I am sure it will be the last.

I turned the corner to my house and there were cars everywhere. I saw sister Ginas, sister in law Debbys, Johns truck, and my pastor Trishs car. Of course they all show up on the day I go shopping! And this just might be my surprise birthday party! It was 2 weeks ago, but it could happen! But it didnt.

I walked in the front door. Everyone just kind of walking around acting busy. Hellos and where you beens. As I get to the kitchen, they seem to close in around me. And wouldnt let me by. Someone took my bags and my purse. I remember not wanting to let them go, dont know why or what I was thinking. John came into the circle with me and said "Sallys gone, Sallys dead." I dropped my bottle of coke.

I remember an instant anger at him. I yelled at him. "Dont say that to me!" Over and over. I knew it wasnt his fault, but I had to be angry at someone. I really dont remember a lot more about that day. The most vivid memory was when I sat on the couch crying. And my little Henry, Ginas littlest only 3 at the time, climbed on the couch and stood behind me. He put his tiny arm around my shoulder and just pat me. "Its ok Georgia, I love you, its ok." He would lay his little head on my shoulder and as much as I hurt, that tiny little man was the only thing that could make a difference. It was if he was filling the huge cracks that were happening in my heart. He can still do that to this day.

I called Mike, Sallys husband. He said that she never called him that morning to tell him she was on her way home. She always did. He called her all morning, till around noon. Then he finally called Linda. She assumed Sally was already gone as usual. But she wasnt. She was in the same position as when Linda left her the night before. Just as she had fallen asleep. There were no reasons for it at all. She simply went to sleep, and didnt wake up.

She died the exact way she that she wanted to. She had told me this several times only months before. We discussed it in June in Arizona, when we were standing at the edge of the grand canyon. We held hands and she prayed. Praising God for the awesome beauty he had created for us to share together. And for our sisterhood and all we meant to each other. She prayed for the little old man in the diner she had bought lunch for the day before. Must have been in his 80s, he wore a skirt and lipstick and rouge and carried a purse. She prayed for the little Indian woman that sat in the room behind us at a weaving loom day after day. She could pray like no one I have ever heard. And could go on and on till I would finally say AMEN, if I could get it in between her catching a breath! As we stood there looking down at the river, she just suddenly out of the blue said, "Some day I will just go to sleep and wake up face to face with Jesus". Thats how I want to go and thats how it will be." It will be a glorious wonderful day! He will take my hand and lead me in. There will be singing and worshiping from then on. Ill see dad and grandma Lily and Holly. I hope Ill see mom. Im so ready! I would go this instant!" My answer was, "Step away from the canyon!" We laughed and went on with the rest of our vacation. Now, some of the most precious memories I have.

Only a month later, I had to call her and tell her that Cory, my nephew, had died. She was here from MN the very next day. And spent a whole week with me, with us, because she was part of our family. I told her she didnt have to come. But she said she had to come to take care of me so that I could take care of Debby and Kevin. She was right of course. I could not have made it without her strength and presence. We were sitting in the porch swing after midnight one night, when she brought it up again, the way she would wake up face to face with Jesus. And that she was excited for Cory and what he was getting to do at that very moment. When she left, it was the last time I saw her.

I talked to Angie, Sallys daughter in college in Fargo. All she could say was, "Can you come? Please get here as fast as you can. I need you here." Trish made all the arrangments. All I know is Mike and Angie met me at the airport. There was snow everywhere and it was really cold. We went to Lindas house to get Sallys van. I couldnt go in any further than the front door. It was the first time I had met Linda and I dont even remember it. When we got in the van and turned it on, the radio was blaring loud. Crazy loud! Just as she would have listened to it playing the recent Dove awards CD. Song #13. I could hear her singing at the top of her lungs, praising God. Her most favorite thing in the world to do. On the 2 or more hour drive to Mikes parents house, we played that song over and over and over. Mike gave it to me. I play it over and over and over.

Over the next 5 days, the house filled with people. They made me a part of them. Mike made arrangments for a viewing at the funeral home one evening, then cremation, and a beautiful service at a huge church. We sat for hours going through pictures to make posters and set them at the funeral home. Angie and I made a scrap book with lots of pages for people to write their thoughts of Sally. It was full by the end of the evening. I could not believe how many people were there. She had only been in Minnesota for 5 years. How could you know that many people in that short of time. What a stupid thought! Sally was the difination of "people person" She never knew a stranger...none any stranger that Georgia! she would say.

I finally made my way to the casket at the other end of this huge room. I stood there staring at this body I did not recognize. My heart knew it was her, my mind was totally confused. She was propped up on 2 pillows. Damn near sitting up right! Her hair was nothing like I had ever seen. She was made up like teenager ready for a hot date. I just stared, in shock at what I was seeing. She had lost 60 pounds, on purpose with diet and exercise. She had a mole removed that she always hated. She had her EARS PIERCED and didnt even tell me! For 15 years I had ragged her for not getting her ears pierced, and there they were, tiny diamond studs. She had laser surgery on her eyes, no longer needing glasses. WHO WAS THIS? All of this was suppose to surprise me when I came up for her birthday/graduation. Well by God, it worked!!! I was certainly surprised! Mike came over to see if I was ok and I started laughing. And told him what I thought about it. the lady that worked there heard me and came over to help. I told her, "We're not playing cards here, shes dead, cant she lay down now?" I pulled out one of the pillows and pushed the other one down so that she laid flat, or at least flatter. I ran my fingers thru her hair to fluff it and make itmore like she wore it. I used tissues to get rid of the red blush and the blue eyeshadow and the red lipstick. Had the woman put her on some light pink lipstick and leave her alone. Then as I pulled up a chair beside her and I cried. Before I left I clipped a lock of her hair, she wouldnt mind.

The memorial service the next day was just beautiful. I could not understand why they chose this huge auditorium instead of the little church that they had always gone to. The one Sally loved. But as that auditorium filled, I knew FILLED! I was in shock of the amount of people. Hundreds of people. Afterwards at the reception, I heard from everyone I spoke with how much Sally and I looked alike, I know, and how they didnt even know Sally had a sister, I didnt correct that one either. My heart will filled with the many many many stories that I heard of how Sally had touched their lives. How she had helped them out in different times of need, in so many different situations. How they had just met her but she had sent them a cheerful card or made a phone call to say hello. How she had paid them to do jobs for her instead of making them feel like they were taking handouts. How she had paid for their semester of books for college because they were a single parent and couldnt afford them. (And HERE is where the scholorship comes from!) About how she had given some rides to the doctor, or brought them bags of groceries, or boxes of Christmas gifts for their kids. How she had prayed for them, how she had lead them to Jesus and their eternal greatfullness to her for it. Story after story was the heart of the Sally I knew and loved. The most selfless person I had ever known. The strongest christian who lived her life to always be a BETTER christian than she thought she was. Not possible.

Mike and Angie went shopping one day for a suitable wooden box to put the ashes in. They returned so proud of what they had found. It was a beautiful box stained wood with fabric on top that would have matched her new bedroom. When I opened it, I started laughing. I laughed so hard there were tears. It was a sewing box! Sally didnt even know there were eyes in a needle for thread! She hot glued buttons on when they came off, and stapled the hem of her skirts! A sewing box! How appropriate! Mike, Angie and I brought the ashes back to bury beside her beloved daddy. We had a sweet short service at the cemetary on Valentines day. It warmed up to close to 80 degrees and the sun was brighter than ever before. A most perfect day.

Later on, Mike and I discussed Sallys graduation. He said they would just mail her diploma to him. But I had taken 2 weeks off from work to be there. This was so very important to her. She had worked so hard for this. She had 3.9 gpa, that really pissed her off, whe really wanted that 4.0. She deserved for someone to go to her ceremony in her place. He agreed and made arrangments for he and I to step up and receive her diplomas for her. Gina drove me up there so I didnt have to go alone. Gina would never make me go through anything alone, she is always there.

The graduation was unbelievable! A tiny christian college in the shape of a cross. And her impact on this school and its instructors, students, office personel, everyone there, was just as unbelieveable. The same stories as before. Several people talked about her and what she meant to the school and to them. Of her caring and christian way of life. The committees she was on, prayer groups, student help groups. They did a washing of the feet, where the dean of the school washed the feet of the students. She not only received her diploma with honors, but awards too. I cant remember them all right now, but will post pictures later when I figure out how.

This was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done in my life.

Before we left MN, Mike gave me Sallys car. The one she left Rockdale in, her 94 Corsica. He said Jonathan needed a car and she would want him to have it. Gina volunteered to drive it home. Which meant I would drive home alone in my Blazer. 24 hours. Alone. Damn.

I think we barely got to the interstate when the past few days came crashing in on me. I started crying and screaming and cursing and laughing and praying and pleading and crying and screaming lasted for hours and hours. Finally we got to Iowa. I saw a billboard. I needed to stop and see the covered bridges of Madison county. I have no idea if it was THE bridges of Madison county. But I didnt care, I HAD to see them. And of course Gina abliges, following me miles out of the look at a bridge. And see the house that John Wayne was born in. Guess I can say Ive seen it all now. John Waynes birthplace and the covered bridges and the biggest ball of twine in the world. I am blessed.

Now back on the road. And the crying, screaming, fit throwing resumes. Just cant seem to stop it. And in the midst of all this, I remember her birthday is on the 16th of May, just days away. How in the hell am I suppose to live through that too! We were going to go out on a day long boat trip on some lake for her birthday. Wonder what lake? Lets see there are only 10,000 to choose from in MN! Well, I could go to the lake at home all by myself for the day. And end up drowning myself more than likely. Not a good idea. Then I should have her a party just like I would have if she had been in Rockdale.

Celebrate Your Girlfriends Day is born!!!

A party, not a mourning, a real party, with food, drinks, laughter. A REAL party, lots of drinds, she loved margaritas! My mind started spinning with ideas. Im laughing and trying to take notes and not run over anyone on the interstate. Had a few scares there. And a few "idiot woman driver" looks. But it all worked out. By the time we stopped for the night I was more exhausted than I had ever been in my whole life. I dont remember if I even told Gina of my plans. I think I just became non existant for the night. But back on the highway the next day, the plans resumed. It was going to be great! And I still had about a week to do everything!

My whole idea of the party was for every woman to realize the importance of her girlfriends. To celebrate them, love them, cherish them. Tell them how much they are loved and cherished. Have fun together and make lasting life long memories. It is so much more important than anyone thinks about on a daily basis. Until you cant make any more memories with that person anymore. Or you cant tell them again that you love them and how special you think they are. So I just had to bring it to everyone attention. I got Gina, Gia and mom involved, along with every other woman I could think of on such short notice. We sent out invitations to every woman we knew and that knew Sally. We decided the night before to raffle one of moms quilts to see if we could raise a little money to get a scholorship started in her name. We raised over 300.00 that night. Over 25 women showed up! We ate, drank margaritas, beer and stayed up till who knows when. It was the greatest, most bittersweet party I had ever been to. Everyone had a wonderful time. We just HAVE to do this again next year!

The next year grew to over 30 and we gave the 300.00 to a single parent returning to school. It would be enough to buy her books! It filled my heart. She was so greatful. And we added a silent auction and another quilt as first prize to the raffle and one of my paintings as second prize. We raised enough to give away 2- 300.00 scholorships the next year. And another 600.00 last year. This year we have 1000.00 to give away. We will decide how to divide it when we receive the applications. And we may have more to add by party time.

The party this year is on May 2. The first party was on a week night because I had it on her birthday. After that we made it the first Saturday in May because of graduations and mothers day and May just gets busy for everyone. We are expecting a great turnout this year. With live music by Mary Charlotte Young (google her) from Bryan/College Station. She is young and a wonderful singer/songwriter. Very jazzy and blusy. And we are making double margaritas, because last year we almost ran out! And that many more jello shots! And more food! And who knows what else. My back yard will be full again! We are expecting over 40 and hoping for over 50!

We have great silent auction items to raise money. And everyone who comes always goes home with keepsakes. In past years we have made canvas tote bags, t-shirts, koozies, zipper coin purses all with the girlfriends logo on them. And flip flops and girlfriend photo albums and bracelets. Every thing at the party is paid for my be or my family and friends who love this as much as I do. 100% of the moneys taken in at the party go to the scholorship fund.

I have no idea who will ever read this, besides Jayne and Dee, but if even one woman tells her girlfriend how important she is to her, I will be happy.

And you are all invited to the party!!! Just email me! I WILL make room!


Leah said...

Hey Georgia,I went to Micheal's today and got some raffia, and different ribbons for the mini scrapbooks,I have everything else I need. I'm so excited to be helping you with this.Go ahead and mail the books,if you can so I can get them started.I can do more than 10 if you need me too. Don't sent any monies for the shipping, I've got it. ((hugs)) Leah

Jeannie Brazell said...

Georgia, I just found your blog, and this story is wonderful. The love you shared with Sally is unbelievable. Now I know what a special lady she was, but Georgia you are one of the most remarkable women I know, and I feel blessed to be able to read your story, thanks for sharing such a personal experience with us. JeannieB