“My Dad was no angel (hearty laughter among the many who knew him). But if there are angels on earth, Mom was surely one of them.”
-Gary R. Williams, September, 2011
So we’ve finally made it back to China after a sudden, sorrowful journey back to the states for Gary’s Mom’s memorial.
The whole trip was so surreal, the opposite time change coupled with serious grief really messes with you, in a way that’s probably hard to understand unless you’ve gone through it yourself. Before we could adapt to the time difference and the overall bizarreness of being back in the US, we were back in China. And even more terrifyingly strange is the fact that we left and came back to a world where Maggie is gone.
Gary keeps saying how weird it is to think that he doesn’t have any parents anymore, although he is using the word “weird” to cover a kaleidoscope of emotions that defy expression in words. If I were to attempt words, I might say “Comfort”, as in the thought that she is no longer suffering the excruciating pains of widespread cancer, or profound and utterly bottomless “Heartbreak”, as only one who has lost their mother can feel.
But I hear Margaret’s little voice saying, “Ohhhaaawww, Christy, don’t do that!” Like she used to when she caught me washing dishes after Christmas celebrations at their home in Barefoot Bay, FL, when Gary and I came to visit. I am privileged to have known Margaret almost as long as I’ve known Gary, as well as his dad Bob, for the time he was alive. In their warm (and not just because of the Florida weather!) home I experienced ‘Heavenly Rice’ and ‘Coca Balls’, and learned to play the most excellent game of cribbage. I am sure there is something to be read in their different teaching methods; Bob would have me forfeit uncounted points (per the rules of the game), but soft hearted Maggie would always help me count up my points and graciously chalk it up to the fact that I was still learning. Many a palm tree Christmas was enjoyed this way with Bob and Margaret, family, and their many friends in Barefoot Bay.
We were welcomed each year with love and meticulously handwritten (by Margaret) ‘Guest IDs’, which allowed us full use of the many perks (like golf) that they enjoyed at Barefoot Bay. I am quite sure that Margaret’s entire life was marked by this easy and natural consideration for others that I witnessed entire time I knew her, as she was well blessed with an innate happiness in helping and befriending others.
This was also made apparent by her many friends and neighbors at Canterbury on the Lake, who registered shock and surprise that her strong yet gracious spirit had at last been overcome by the travails of cancer, as she seemed to have enough openheartedness as to go on forever.
At the memorial service, Gary bravely spoke of Margaret’s life, and on being a beloved son, incorporating the many tear soaked pages of notes from his elder brother Virgil. Virgil’s wife Jackie, ever the rock solid woman behind everything, managed to get anything that needed doing done before anyone realized it even needed doing. Virgil and Jackie had been nearly singlehandedly taking care of Margaret these last few difficult years, and we often wished we could have been closer in order to help.
My mom spoke of Maggie’s spirituality through a poem analogy, likening death to the crossing of a ship over the horizon and out of sight, which of course is only a visual illusion of having disappeared. At the point in the narrative where my mom mentioned Maggie’s contagious easygoing spirit and cheerful energy, I heard a voice murmur agreement, “That was so her!” (Almost certainly the voice of someone from the neighborhood “Gang”)
Grandson Eric next spoke of many fond and funny memories, reminding us to celebrate Maggie’s life through the many good times we all had with her.
Lisa gave tribute to Margaret as a hard working woman, carefully balancing career and motherhood, something which is not easy to do today and must have been even more challenging for Grandma, considering the time and age she succeeding in doing it.
Public speaking (especially under emotional duress) is not for everyone, but some things can speak volumes without words. I witnessed Shannon’s devastation that Grandma wouldn’t be at her wedding in a few weeks time, heard Julie remarking “It’s so weird to see the family together without her”, and what words could convey all that is in a fiercely emotional hug from Adam. Even Jack and Nick youthfully carried on Margaret’s legacy in their very Kennedy-esque relishing of doughnuts after the service, just as she would have.
This is perhaps the best tribute any one person could hope for, to see the lasting impressions of a friend, sister, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother; indelibly marked upon the lives of the family and friends left behind, all so much the better for having been touched by her.
Finally at restful peace, Margaret Belle (Kennedy) Williams 1927 – 2011