We hit the road at 5:45 am. The girls did great in the car. The built-in DVD player helped make the ride very smooth, stopping just a couple of times to let the girls stretch their legs and get some food. We made it into Memphis around 8:30 pm, and since the girls had only napped for about an hour in the car, we were all pretty tired and went to bed.
This morning I got a call from my mom just before 7:00 am that she was at the hospital. Anita had stopped responding to my Uncle James and he had called an ambulance. Mom said her heart rate was slowing, she was unresponsive, and that we should hurry if we wanted to see her. I got the girls dressed and called my mom about 20 minutes later, but it was too late. Anita had already passed away.
Anita was the type of woman I wish everyone could have met. She was a true southern girl, full of life, humor, hospitality, and spunk. She was always the life of the party -- one of those "favorite aunts"...you know, if it was acceptable to have "favorites." She was a skilled painter & woodworker, and had more tools in her garage than most men do. She could beat anyone in speed scrabble any day of the week, made the best sweet tea in the south, and waited hand and foot on anyone who came by to visit.
She and my uncle James were high school sweethearts, and had recently celebrated 50 years of marriage. Uncle James is a quiet guy, probably because he could never get a word in edge-wise when Anita was around. As a couple, they were fun to watch because she was so lively and chattery, and he is so mellow and laid-back. Please be praying for Uncle James. He doesn't have any other family.
The last time we saw Anita alive was in November of 2008 when we stopped in Memphis on our way home from Micah's military graduation. At that time she was healthy and undiagnosed. Although I'm very sad that we didn't make it in time to speak with her, tell her how much we love her, and say goodbye, I'm also relieved that a.) she is out of pain, and b.) I get to remember the happy, lively, feisty Anita I've known and loved all these years.
JP inspects the money Anita gave to him for counterfeits (after she lost a bet)
When my mom broke the news to be over the phone, I was crying and Rae asked me why. I told her it was because Aunt Anita died and went to heaven, and I was just kind of sad about it. Rae immediately said, "But Mom, don't worry! We are going to heaven someday, too! We can see her then!" And she is right. We can say goodbye with hope, because we know goodbye is not the end. I don't know how people make it through these things without that hope.
Aunt Anita & Rae -- August 2007
Aunt Anita, there's no way to imagine what life is going to be like without you, especially for those who have been near to you every day. Your spirit & personality cannot be replaced. But your memory is what we will have forever, and you made sure to make the most of every moment, so that no memory will ever be lacking. I love you, I miss you, and I can't wait to see you. Love, Audra.