Summer 2000


As is often the case, Dolly’s simple explanation in the accompanying cartoon provides a gem of wisdom. The present time is a gift we should be thankful for, enjoy, and make the most of right now.

Sometimes I find the present to be a difficult time. I am so prone to reminisce about the past and plan for the future that I fear I fail to make the best of the present.

In keeping with my love for the past and all that was a part of that, we have recently had built a one-room log cabin where I can get out my wonderful treasures of the past and enjoy them. For want of a better name, the cabin has been dubbed "Patsy’s Playhouse," and no little girl of any age could be more pleased than I.

When I begin to move things into my playhouse, I shall go to the attic and closets to retrieve lard cans, a milk strainer, a real molasses bucket, a sausage mill, Don’s grandmother’s enamel wash pan, a well-worn enamel dishpan, Don’s grandfather’s tobacco grinder, a wall-mounted telephone, a coffee grinder, my mother’s treadle sewing machine, and on and on. A long table will provide display for a sheep bell, my first wooden jelly-making spoon, Don’s mother’s butter paddle, a collection of old important doorknobs, and other smaller items. On a vintage rack will hang my collection of clothes worn by family members on special occasions.

One feature with which I am especially pleased is a box-type lock for the door. When the baptistery was placed in Clear Creek Church, two single doors which had provided entry to the sanctuary from the west end in the original structure were removed and stored in our old broiler house. Don has cleaned the lock, oiled it well, and it works perfectly. Our son Andy is making a key for it in his blacksmith shop.

I am thankful for my many memories, and I try to develop my father’s trait of being able to pass over unhappy memories either by not dwelling on them or by turning them into happy, positive ones.

I do, however, feel a keen sense of the present. Presently I am able to commune with God through prayer and Bible reading. I remember times when I seemed out-of-touch with God, and I am thankful to have this closeness restored. I feel that many of my prayers have been answered exactly as I asked. I am able now to attend worship services and some other activities at our church. This spring and summer I have enjoyed having flowers to share with my church family. Gathering and arranging these has afforded me time to relax, and I have thought about how the beauty of God’s creation brought inside His house can remind us of His goodness. He blesses us with numerous presents in the beautiful world, and as we pause to acknowledge these, we are filled with praise and thanksgiving. The present is a wonderful gift!

We can, however, learn many helpful lessons from the past. Occupying a large part of this newsletter is an article by Jennifer Hansen in which she describes the anguish of her grief. She tells how seeing the "terrible fragility of life" has given her an enormous appreciation for each day. The article provides a very personal insight into the experience of grieving. Although the article is much longer than those we usually include in the newsletter, we consider it worth including as it was carried in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The column to which she refers in the first part of the article is "Respect the Lonely Sailor on that Vast, Dark Ocean," which was reprinted in the Winter Issue of Seasons.

Again we express our gratitude to Ms. Hansen for this excellent insightful article and for her permission to reprint it and to Denise Wade who sent it to us.


Absence. Absence. 
by Jennifer Hansen

In the winter of 1988, my mother died of cancer. She was 54. During Mom’s last months, I watched helplessly as she grew so thin that the hollows above her collarbones looked like they’d been scooped out with a spoon. I watched as she grew so weak that she struggled to lift her hairbrush—later, she could barely lift the hand that held the brush. I watched as she became so wracked with pain that we lowered her legs to the floor by centimeters, propping their bony fragility on our hands at intervals to let her rest—finally, we stopped moving her at all because her cancer-riddled femur shattered one night when she merely shifted in bed.

At the time, I was pregnant with my first child and excruciatingly aware that Mom’s life was ending just as my baby’s life was beginning. I didn’t expect my mother to live to see the child growing inside me, but I hoped she would.

When Mom died, I buried my grief in busyness, focusing on the pregnancy and the future as she’d asked me to do. It was a brief respite. After a healthy, normal pregnancy, my baby boy didn’t survive.

The two years following those losses are a blur of grief. In addition to the anger and anguish of bereavement, I experienced physical reactions I never expected. I had trouble eating, dropping down to slim, then to thin, I developed insomnia and moved through most days in a haze of fatigue.

Most strangely, my heart physically ached. The doctor reassured me that the pain in my chest was normal and would vanish in time. He was right, but it was a very long time. Sometimes it hurt just to breathe, and I occasionally contemplated trying to quit.

"It’s like someone picked up my life and dropped it," I told a friend. "I’m shattered." And, everywhere I went I saw mothers and babies, wrenching reminders of what I’d lost.

I tried very hard to get past everything, to get back to normal. I often thought I was succeeding. Friends and family told me they thought I was coping well. A few weeks after the birth and death of my child, I attended a relative’s wedding. I gave up plans for graduate school, but worked part-time jobs. I studied with a playwright for a year and completed my first full-length play. I started a small business with a friend. I planted and kept up a huge garden. I made Christmas gifts. Most of all, I bent over backward to convince myself and everyone else that my marriage was strong when it was, in fact, deeply troubled.

As a person who considers herself a survivor of grief, I still can’t tell anybody the right thing to say or the right thing to do for someone who’s bereaved. Bereavement has no rules and no map. Grief is an altered state of consciousness.

In March, I wrote a column about the unpredictability of grief. It generated more mall than any column I’ve ever written. As a follow-up, I was asked to write more, to tell my own story. I do so because I hope it will help someone else, although since each loss is unique the only helpful thing here may be to reinforce the strangeness of grief.

Today, I understand that depression over the deaths of my mother and my newborn son was normal. My pain was not disproportionate to what I had endured. I was just completely unequipped to handle it, and so was everyone around me.

We’re not required to take classes in grief. We should be.

Losing my mother and my son in such a short time left me feeling like I’d lost my past and my future.

In the months after her death, I often dreamed that Mom was still alive. In some dreams she was healthy; in most she wasn’t. I’d wake up crying, and the next day her loss felt brand new and raw again. Months after she died I picked up the phone and dialed her number before I remembered she was dead.

Other nights, I dreamed I was pregnant again. I’d wake up with my hand on my belly, certain I could feel the baby kicking. When the doctor assured me this was not unusual, I stopped going to the doctor.

During the daytime I felt haunted by my sadness. I tried to stay busy, but my feelings intruded. Occasionally, the voice of someone I was talking to would begin to echo in my head and our conversation would seem ridiculous, a waste of time, unimportant. If something triggered a vivid memory, I’d get lost in a remembrance and lose tract of what was being said. I’d tell people I couldn’t concentrate because I had a headache. I cried so often that this was usually true.

Before that year, I had liked to write in the afternoon and evening. I’m convinced mourning changed my metabolism. Insomnia awakened me at all hours, and I eventually got in the habit of writing in the middle of the night. It’s a habit that has lasted, and I often do my best writing when everyone else is asleep.

I tried to get out of the house as much as I could, but somehow I always ended up next to a mother carrying a baby or caught in line behind a pregnant woman. I was drawn to these women and tortured by their nearness.

Most people I knew tried to be sympathetic, but few were good at it. Among the lasting insights I gleaned from that time is that you’re either born with empathy or you’re not. Some people just don’t have it.

My mother’s death had been expected, and friends were very kind and understanding afterward. But the baby was a different story. I’m convinced that the loss of a child is the worst emotional pain there is, but the anguish of losing a baby is not something most people can understand.

Generous helpings of useless advice came my way constantly, even from people I barely knew.

I was told to have another baby right away. I was told to wait at least two years before getting pregnant again. I was told the baby’s death was all for the best and must have been God’s will. I was told that not even God could protect precious little babies from harm. I was told that we were being tested, that our son was an old soul who only needed to be here briefly to move to a higher plane, that he was in a better place and we should rejoice for him, that surely there was something terribly wrong with him and we were lucky he was dead.

Once my sister-in-law said, "Don’t worry, you can always have another one."

"No, we can’t," I answered, and burst into tears. "We can have a different one, but we can never had another one."

Much of the advice we were given was standard you’ll-get-over-it-in-time stuff. In my growing cynicism, I began to call this the flu-theory of grief. This view of grief assumes that bereavement is really a kind of illness and with a little time, proper diet and exercise, a full recovery is just around the corner.

Grief is not an illness. The bereaved person will not get over it and go back to being who she was. That slammed out of her the moment she learned her loved one was dead.

If you must equate grief to a physical ailment, compare it to a severe burn. The initial experience is a nightmare. The pain is excruciating. The scars are permanent. You are forever changed.

To heal from the death of a loved one, you have to accept your loss, but that doesn’t mean you stop loving or that you forget. It means you re a survivor of grief, something nobody wants to be.

This is one of the hardest things to convey to someone who hasn’t experienced a devastating loss. The person grieving doesn’t want to be. She doesn’t know what to do to make the pain go away. She didn’t ask for the anguish and she’d give anything if it would stop. But it doesn’t. It’s there when she wakes up and it’s there when she takes a shower and it’s there at work and it’s there during dinner. Only sleep offers any reprieve, and sometimes even dreams break her heart.

Today, I never assume a grieving person is doing well just because she’s back at work and looking normal. I did those things to—and I was most definitely not doing well.

The single biggest mistake I made was trying to cope on my own. I found a bereavement support group, but for reasons I can’t remember, I wouldn’t go without my husband. Since he didn’t want to attend, I stayed away as well. That was a terrible mistake.

Men and women often grieve differently, not less or more than each other. They play a variety of roles in recovering from a loss and those roles are not static. They can switch back and forth, they can shift into something else. Sometimes one partner will act strong and one will fall apart. Remoteness can be a way of distancing yourself from the pain—it can hide deep denial or anger. Sometimes the reality of the loss takes much, much longer to hit one person than the other.

My advice is to find someone to talk to who has been there and who has survived in a way you want to emulate. You are not alone—you now belong to a club no one wanted to join whose members include the most caring and wise people you could know.

If you know someone suffering from the loss of a baby, remember that a woman’s physical recovery from birth is an inescapable reminder of what has occurred. For months my clothes didn’t fit, for weeks my body hurt. The baby I’d dreamed of nursing was dead. No wonder I went a little crazy.

Ironically, my then-husband had lost his father to cancer two years before my mother died. Looking back, I can see that there was never a time when one of us wasn’t enduring or recovering from a loss. Our grief only magnified the deeper issues that derailed our marriage, issues that were there from the start.

Today, I know these problems would have surfaced eventually no matter what. But losing the baby brought them to the forefront in a way neither of us could begin to handle. I struggled to get through the grief. My ex-husband tried to avoid it in unhealthy ways, and we grew further and further apart.

Many marriages don’t survive the loss of a child. We went on to have two more beautiful children and lose another baby through a miscarriage, but we eventually divorced.

I recently remarried, and I know I see my children and my new husband through the eyes of a survivor of grief. I trust nothing, I worry all the time, I don’t like to be away from them for very long.

When people ask me how many children I have, I say two. But for years that was a difficult question to answer. I once read an interview with a farmer who was asked how many children he had. He answered, "Nine children, seven living." That statement was comforting because it so gently honored the children he’d loved and lost.

I was fortunate to be able to have two more children and to eventually get my life back on track. It was a long process. The losses of my mother and baby taught me much. Their deaths changed how I work and write, how I parent and how I live.

I’m a generally happy person. I’ve been richly blessed. But I’ve also seen the terrible fragility of life and I’m haunted by it. It stands solemnly at the edge of each of my days, a constant reminder not to waste a minute, not to take my loved ones for granted, to be there whenever possible, to say and show how much I love them every chance I get.


More than $10,000 has been raised locally to support the nationwide effort to provide a long overdue tribute to the individual Americans who helped win World War II. A beautiful, impressive memorial will be built on a 7.4-acre site between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall.

Participation in the July 4 balloon release on the Oxford Square was wonderful! The sky was filled with colorful balloons showing enthusiastic community support for this project. Waller Funeral Home is proud to have been a part of this effort, and we are proud of our community! We appreciate the contributions and efforts of others: the Fourth of July Committee for planning the activities of that day; the veterans organizations who assisted with plans; The Oxford Eagle for abundant and effective publicity; and especially the folks who honored their special veterans and supported this local effort to raise funds for the national monument.

An important part of the memorial will be the "Registry of Remembrances" which will list the names and military units of veterans and also the names and activities of anyone back home who made a significant effort to help win the war, such as participating in a metal or rubber collection drive, rolling and packing bandages, serving coffee and cookies on a troop train, or working in an airplane factory.

Since our involvement with this project, we have learned that the service records of many World War II veterans were burned in a 1973 fire at a government facility in Virginia. If you want to be sure that some special person’s contribution to the war effort is a part of the "Registry of Remembrance," we have additional forms for submitting the name and record of participation of that individual.

Forms are available at the Funeral Home, or you can send us the following information and we will complete the form for you: (Please print or write legibly on a blank sheet of paper.)

•Your Name and Address

•Specify whether Honoree is/was:
(1) WWII Veteran, (2) Killed in WWII, (3) Civilian on the Home Front

•Full Name and Address of Honoree

•Honoree’s Relationship to Donor

•Title or Rank

•Service Branch, if applicable

•Brief description of wartime activity

Contributions are welcomed but are not required for listing for the Registry. Checks should be made payable to WWII Am. Battle Monuments Coin. (World War II Memorial Fund of the American Battle Monuments Commission), a tax-exempt entity recognized for charitable contributions by the IRS.

If you have any questions, please call the Funeral Home (662-234-7971).


We dedicate this issue of Seasons to those who died and whose families we served from May 13, 2000 through August 26, 2000.

Mrs. Kathlyn Winter Floyd / May 13, 2000

Dr. James Lilburn Henderson / May 19, 2000

Mrs. Margaret Beasley Gorove / May 20, 2000

Dr. Arthur B. Lewis / May 22, 2000

Mrs. Lula Katherine Hankins / May 29, 2000

Mrs. Mable Tidwell Irby / June 1, 2000

Mr. Jimmy Alvis Lewis, Sr / June 10, 2000

Mr. Ernest Lee Tatum / June 10, 2000

Mrs. Mildred Edwards Fudge / June 10, 2000

Mrs. Lura Sanders Powers / June 11, 2000

Mrs. Norine Faust Hudson / June 15, 2000

Mrs. Avis Brewer Engle / June 20, 2000

Mrs. Mary Ygondine White / June 25, 2000

Ms. Mary Lynnette Duncan / June 26, 2000

Mrs. Juanita Faust Hale / June 27, 2000

Mrs. Mary Abernethy Dendy / June 30, 2000

Mr. Thomas C. "T. C." Dulin / July 1, 2000

Mrs. Josephine Inge Alexander / July 3, 2000

Mrs. Annie McCullar Hughes / July 3, 2000

Mr. Steven Matthew "Steve" Hipp / July 5, 2000

Mrs. Rita Jordan Newbern / July 7, 2000

Mr. Walker Jackson Coffey / July 13, 2000

Mrs. Willie Mae Varner Tatum / July 14, 2000

Mr. W. L. Busby / July 14, 2000

Mrs. Allie Mills White / July 15, 2000

Mr. George Smith McNeely / July 18, 2000

Mr. Federico Sacor Santos / July 20, 2000

Mr. John J. Litz / July 21, 2000

Mr. Curtis Lee Harris / July 22, 2000

Mr. Wilburn Burke / July 28, 2000

Mrs. Frances Thompson Towery / July 29, 2000

Mrs. Ann Medley Palmer / August 1, 2000

Mrs. Myrtice Tarver Cody / August 10, 2000

Mr. James Harold Webb / August 12, 2000

Mrs. Sadie Varner Joyner / August 14, 2000

Mrs. Vallie Mae Sims Anderson / August 15, 2000

Mr. Clarence Edward Heard / August 17, 2000

Mrs. Daisye Gardner Oliphant / August 17, 2000

Mr. William Earl "W. E." Cummings / August 18, 2000

Mr. Tony Clinton Kitchens / August 18, 2000

Mrs. Lucille Kinney Huggins / August 21, 2000

Mr. Maurice Lamar Kilpatrick / August 23, 2000

Mrs. Olera Watts Hale / August 26, 2000

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