Saturday, February 7, 2009

I Love Lucy

It began early Tuesday morning with a phone call. My mother-in-law's long struggle was over. She was at rest. The rest of the week was sad, full, happy, wonderful, crazy, stressful, wonderful, draining, taxing -- and have I said wonderful? I hadn't planned on blogging it. The whole thing seemed too big for words, you know? But I've since thought more and more about how the cruel disease that took Mawmaw Lucy's life first stole her past and then her present and I knew what I wanted and what I needed to do. Recording these thoughts and pictures from our "I Love Lucy" celebration is my stick-it-in-your-eye-Alzheimer moment and it feels good.

Lucy Lealon Tomlinson was born March 25th, 1927. She passed away January 27th, 2009. She was a true southern belle with marvelous imperfections. In the frames below you can see the glam of her Miss Helena Arkansas 1945 self and a pic of the Lucy most remember before the disease began to steal her away.

Family members and long time friends came from all corners of the country to join hometown friends and family to celebrate her life. Lucy had left explicit handwritten instructions about this celebration and her three girls, Sandy, Debbie, and Karen, and her son and my husband, Phil, honored her last wishes. We didn't hold her service in the church, but at her graveside in the Lake Providence City Cemetery, on a January day God kissed with sunshine. Our Pastor, Bro. Don Boyett, gave a short eulogy that perfectly expressed what the siblings had shared with him the day before. Her granddaughter, Whitney, was next up with a most beautiful a cappella rendition of Amazing Grace. The finale was perfect. Lucy's son-in-law, and Karen's husband, Opp, shared a quick hitting gallery of thoughts from Mawmaw's kids and grandkids. Some of these will only make sense to the immediate family, but it truly was a wonderful way of remembering Lucy and it totally captured who she was in that sweet moment of time. It went something like this:

The Life of Lucy, a true Southern Belle

When you saw Lucy's long car, (and she always drove whatever long car she currently owned in the center of the road as if she owned it), it was likely to have a) trash bag on the hood she had meant to put in the garbage on the way out of the drive, or b) Christmas wreath on the front grill.

Sandy, Debbie, and Karen fondly recall the last "girl trip" with Mama to New Orleans, decking her out at Chicos, and her adopting Annie the kitten.

Lucy had a full size cross on the hill in her front yard and it was always decorated, every holiday, every occasion be it Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Easter, or Christmas.

Fond kitchen memories with Lucy...making divinity, fudge, trash, popcorn balls, and taffy-- a long time before Martha Stewart.

One son-in-law remembers anticipating a late night meal after his son was born and then hearing "you don't want that" as Lucy takes the hamburger from his hungry hand and dumps in the trash.

A grandson remember getting an art farm from Mawmaw Lucy-- when he was 15!

"I just need to see my family"

"I wanna go to the picture show."

Phil learned how to pick out the perfect shade of lipstick at Wal-Mark. That Wal-Mark isn't a typo, it's Lucy's pronunciation, that and her favorite expletive, "Oh, ship."

Once, while living in the assisted living center in New Orleans, Lucy attended a dance at the home and was truly the belle of the ball, dancing with all the gentleman whether they were in wheelchairs, leaning on walkers, or assisted by canes. When her daughter asked her to dance Lucy told her promptly, "I don't dance with girls."

Lucy's line, "I'm just trying to get it together" always means she was giving instructions to Ro, Lily, or Carrie Lee.

Some family members have fond memories of playing cards with Lucy on motor home trips.

When you were leaving her home, regardless of the length of your stay, she always said, "but we never had enough time to visit.'"

One particular grandson remembers having too many margaritas with his grandmother on the dock.

All remember that BOYS ARE NOT ALLOWED beyond the hall door. It was known as the line of death although it was discussed that perhaps that wasn't the best choice of words for this occasion.

She allowed one grandson to drive her car at 12. After he crashed into the carport and on into the kitchen she defended their actions by saying, "Well, he said he could drive."

Another grandson remembers playing golf with her and notes her drives were straight as an arrow-- and about two foot high.

"I'm planting" for Lucy meant she was directing Billy on where to plant her pansies.

And then there were the Styrofoam cups with lipstick on them-- coming out of the dishwasher!

Fourth of July's and her rules: "We are going to eat on the dock, so there!" and "Keep the back door shut so the snakes don't come in."

Fruit salad, tuna fish, and the cook licking her fingers. A story for family to share.

We can't forget the Christmas tree she got tired of decorating so she began putting it into the big hall closet each year fully decorated and pulling it out the next, sans a few more limbs and lights.

A granddaughter remembers thinking Lucy had more shoes than anyone she had ever known.

There was the 4th of July when she appeared decked out in a tube top with red, white, and blue rollers. She was in her seventies.

If she couldn't understand something and didn't want to bother trying she would just say, "whatever."

Cathy and Sandy remember her screaming as they chased baby skunks in the front yard.

Baby ducks, eating beets, blaring televisions...fond and not so fond memories.

Gonzo the parakeet, oh the stories he could tell.

Kittens in the tub and shower. Why didn't we ever see them become cats?

Four baby dolls in the nursing home, one for each child. Lucy liked to kiss them goodnight. Late one night as her son Phil was leaving, Lucy asked him to kiss the baby dolls good-bye. After he obliged she said, "You know they aren't real, don't you?" Gotcha!

Opp announces news from half-way around the world. In a place called Kipsongo, at a feeding center, orphanage, and mission called "Seeds" where Opp and Karen serve, prayers have gone up for Lucy for years. And now, there in Kenya there is a new room dedicated. "Lucy's Kitchen" is open again.

All in attendance agreed, "We love Lucy" and shared the Lord's prayer in unison.

Afterwards, friends and family were invited back to our house where Phil and I got to host a wonderful party. Our house, though upside and sideways at the end, was truly blessed by the gathering. The ladies of Lucy's life long church, The First United Methodist of Lake Providence, laid out a spread in my kitchen and dining room supremely fit for a southern funeral. Trust me when I tell you that we had not gone the least big hungry in the the days preceding that meal. Oh, between the generous dishes brought to our home from my and Phil's home church, Providence Church, and the rest of the community-- we probably gained weight last week!

In and around the feasting on Mawmaw's celebration day, we managed to get one huge group shot of the entire family before red, white, and blue balloons were handed to all the grandchildren for a final release. (FYI, this was an idea some of the kids embraced more so than others. There were a few tears as parents tried to sell the idea and older folks contended that no little one had to give up a balloon if they didn't want to!) Later that day there was a prerequisite football game in the front yard until the light gave out, and, of course, more eating.

What follows is a short photo journey from Tuesday when the house began filling up until Sunday when the taillights of the last car drove out the drive. It has been a labor of love to record it. I won't label the pictures. I'll just leave you with 'em, but I do hope you enjoy a peak into our day. I know Lucy did.


To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance... Ecclesiastes, chapter three








  1. Your family is our prayers Mrs. Shellie. We send our condolences. Steven, Lynn Kate, & Baylor

  2. My condolences, Shellie. I have to say, I would like to have my ending be a celebration like that! Wonderful pics.


  3. Shelly,

    Thanks for the laughs and the tears. Ms. Lucy would have LOVED it! She was a wonderful southern lady.

    Leslie Knight

  4. The first "cottage prayer meeting" that I ever heard of or went to was across the street at Lucy's home. When I consider the things that stick in my memory as opposed to how many things I forget, I think it must have been very significant to me. I think of Lucy as healed and home. Thank you for some good laughs, a stirring of wonderful memories, and a perfect tribute to a person whom I saw as "without a mean bone in her body". Love, Carole Terral