Saturday, January 1, 2011

A farewell

Life is filled with losses: at my age, I know that. I have attended far too many funerals in the past few years. And I know that it is not the dead, but ourselves we weep for.

The funeral I attend yesterday was held at a small country church -- way out in the country. Even though we arrived early, the parking lot was full; more cars were lined up on each side of the road and along the adjoining pastureland.

The sanctuary was full, as well as available space on the small porch and vestibule. The number of mourners was visible testament to the many people who had been touched by this special life.

Phoebe had a varied career but her talent showed most clearly in her role as director of the county library. When I first met her, she was learning the job as well as attending college to get her master's degree in library science. It was a full and demanding load, but she handled it with ease and grace. She was never too busy to talk about a book she had read that she thought Imight enjoy, or ask about my own fledgling career.

Phoebe was a nourisher. She brought local writers to the library to speak about their books and the writing life. She was delighted to be told about a new author that she could persuade to come and talk at the monthly Brown Bag Book Club. Held at noon so working people could attend, the idea was that everyone brought something to share. Phoebe loved to cook, so there was always a pot of soup, chili, or corned beef and cabbage as the main dish. She loved photography, so each session was well documented.

She initiated programs for children and adults. Younger readers could find their books in a fairytale castle. Teens were encouraged to paint seasonal murals on the windows. Older adults were entertained with programs that included musical groups and storytellers.

When asked to help with the Carolinas Writers Conference, Phoebe threw herself into the project with her customary enthusiasm. She not only suggested authors and helped with the planning, she persuaded her Friends of the Library to supply goodies for the authors to nibble on between their workshops. It was not her fault if they returned to their homes a few pounds heavier than when they arrived.

Not everyone knew that Phoebe was struggling with her health all this time. A mysterious illness was eventually diagnosed as lupus. The treatment seemed to cause as much damage as the disease. There were other problems, both medical and personal. Phoebe never lost her smile or that great laugh. If you asked how she was, she'd tell you, but somehow you found yourself discussing the latest bestseller instead, or how the conference was shaping up, or if we'd had an acceptance from this or that writer. Her outlook was always optimistic and her goal was to live life as fully as possible.

When she was admitted to the hospital, she was promptly added to prayer lists in nearly every church in the county. People called or stopped by the library daily for updates from the staff. Although the news was seldom good, people never stopped believing that she'd conquer this obstacle as she had so many others. "The doctors don't know Phoebe," we said.

But the complications were too serious. Even her tremendous courage and strength couldn't overcome them.

The minister giving the homily said that Phoebe was now in heaven, using her myriad skills to make the place "more better."

So we grieve for ouselves, for we know what we have lost. But every time I enter the library, I will be reminded of the legacy she left. And, somewhere in the distance, I will hear her laughter.


  1. Thank you for this tribute to Phoebe. When I think of her, the word "enthusiasm" always comes to my mind. She will most certainly be missed.

  2. Sandy, I'm so sorry to hear about Phoebe. I didn't know. She was a very special lady.