Last week, I attended three funerals in four days, and that, my friends, can take a toll on you. Of course, I’m not suggesting that my feelings compare to the loss suffered by my friends.
But there is something that gets to you if you have a heart and if you care about your friends.
In one instance, a friend’s adult son died unexpectedly. In another, a friend’s husband died from health-related issues after an accidental fall a while back. And in the last one, a woman who was an inspiration to so many people around the city, but especially old South Baton Rouge, died after an illness.
Mrs. Willie Mae and I would kid each other all the time. She would tell me how proud she was of me, and that meant so much. (I intentionally won’t use last names, but friends know who they are.)
In the first, I went to funeral of my friend Marva Lynn’s husband. I couldn’t stay for the actual event because of prior obligations. So, I went to the back of the church in one of the private rooms to see her sitting with her family. All I could think of doing was to make a sad face and blow her kiss. She was wiping away a tear at the time when she recognized me and she responded in kind.
That remained with me for the rest of the day.
Marva Lynn has been my friend since the ninth grade, when we sat next to each other in Mrs. Jones' “accelerated” class at McKinley Junior High. She and I talked about everything from sports to life to whatever. She is a tell-it-like-she-feels person, and I’ve always appreciated that, even when she didn’t feel so good about me.
That friendship has lasted a long time. Our friendship has overcome bumps and curves, but she is still the classmate who laughed at me in Mrs. Jones’ class when she smelled the aroma of my broken bottle of Hai Karate cologne seeping through my gym bag in class.
Do I feel for her loss? You bet I do.
At another funeral, I heard people tell great stories about Essie and Aphonse’s son. I did not know the young man, but he had to be pretty good if they were his parents. I remember years ago sitting with Essie’s dad, Buddy Stewart, talking about music and politics at the famous Buddy’s Rock Shop. Her dad didn’t really care about my opinion; I was going to hear his. And, after all, I came to his place of business, so I guess I had to hear it.
Essie is as funny as she is serious about things. On occasion, she has shared her weight loss formula with me. It tends to work better for her than me. Alphonse is just a smart and rock-solid guy. It’s always good to talk to him. While he is a little older than I am, we share the pride of playing football at McKinley High.
And then there was Willie Mae. She was one of those people you were bound to know if you came out of old south Baton Rouge. She was a doer and a talker. She knew how to make you laugh and how to get things done in the community.
Sometimes I would see her at various events, and she would single me out to talk about politics, Southern University and whatever crossed her mind. Willie Mae and I would have little arguments about our opinions, but nothing serious. It didn’t make a difference because she was much older, and I always adhere to the wishes of my elders.
But it made me feel good when she would say, “I read your column, and I agreed with you” even if she added a “but” to it. For someone who was a pillar of old South Baton Rouge to respect anything I had done makes my heart full.
It was a tough few days, but I hope my friends and their families are doing well. Sadness is not always.
I want to send a big “Thank You” to “Kathy a reader” who sent me a $20 gift card while I was having lunch on Tuesday with some friends at Piccadilly on Sherwood Forest. She added on the ticket, “I am a grateful reader of your column. Merry Christmas.”
To Kathy, thank you for the lovely compliment and the gift card. I want you to know this card will allow me to take two senior citizens or two homeless people to lunch. Please continue to read my column. And again, thanks.