My Mema passed away last week at the age of 86.  She left a large family, three surviving children, seven surviving grandchildren and eight great grandchildren (soon to be nine).  My memories of her will always be  beautiful ones.  She was an elegant Southern lady and a devout Episcopalian.  While Granddaddy passed over 20 years ago, I remember the love and devotion they had for each other and their family.

About a year ago, Mema shared with me the story of how she met Granddaddy.  It was in Memphis during WWII, and she was at a party with her parents good friends and her date.  She was 19, and a handsome 29 year old Naval officer was also at the party.  He spotted her and made some “cheeky”  introduction, she recalled to me with a girlish giggle.  He told her that night he was going to marry her, and not long after, he was true to his word.  They went on to build a home, and have four talented children who thrived in music and the arts.

Growing up, some of my brightest memories from childhood are summer vacations spent at their house exploring their extensive grounds overlooking the Arkansas River.  The creek, woods, small barn and gazebo were inspirations for any child’s imagination.  I remember while swimming in their pool with my cousins, we would often hear the horn at the lock and dam signaling a boat was about to go through.  We would grab our towels and flip flops, jump in the station wagon and race down to the dam just in time to see a barge or a fishing boat go through. We would race back just as quickly to the pool and do cannonballs, jack-knife dives, and a few too many belly flops, off of the diving board.

I remember their greenhouse and lovely gardens. Mema and Granddaddy loved gardening and grew an array of flowers and vegetables.  I remember their motley crew of dogs and cats that were so much a part of the family.  One dog, an irish setter named Rosie, was my particular favorite. Granddaddy used to tell me wild stories about how Rosie could speak, and she would tell him how much she missed me when I was gone.  I remember Granddady endearingly called me Peaches, because of my peaches and cream complexion.  I remember Mema being an excellent cook, and hostess.  Thanksgiving and Christmas were always magical times thanks to her culinary skills and attention to detail.  She volunteered in a number of causes, especially anything to do with animals.  She would take in many a stray dog or cat if the proper owner could not be found.   She loved the Lord, travel, art, history and beautifully elegant things.  I see so much of her in each of the women in our family.

One of the hymns she chose for her service was, “All Things Bright and Beautiful.”   The hymn fits Mema, and my memories of her and Granddaddy, so very well.

All Things Bright & Beautiful
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning,
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the weather,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden –
He made them every one.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.