Yesterday, I delivered the eulogy at my sweet mama’s memorial service. It was not nearly as hard as I had imagined and certainly won’t compare to the emptiness I will feel in the days to come. But for today, I can say that I am proud of myself that I tried to give my mother a proper good-bye.
After my mother passed, we gathered, as siblings do. David, Kim, Nathan, and I. Together we wrote her obituary and planned her memorial service. We unanimously decided to frame this service around her stories, her writing, that we all may hear her voice within the story I tell.
It is an honor to stand before you to speak of the great love of my mother, but make no mistake it is not honor that interests me. I wanted to do this so that I could see you all collectively. I wanted to feel your love that it may somehow fill the void inside of me.
Almost every parent thinks they have the greatest children and there are some children who think they have the greatest parents. In our case, David, Nathan, and I indeed had the greatest parents. It is like David told me the other day, “when you were born to her as your mother, you hit the lottery.” And every year for 39 years, I won the lottery. She is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened in my life. Always patient, always kind, and always loving.
The first story I tell is mine:
My mom’s dear friend, Amy Paris passed away from cancer right as my mom was starting treatment. Yesterday as I was finishing writing my mom’s eulogy, Amy’s daughter Rachel called and told me an amazing story she experienced a few hours before my mother also passed into the next life. She was camping in what she calls the “back country” of Washington state. She woke to an unusual sound that she described as multiple thuds that vibrated through her campsite. When she peeked out she saw a beautiful valley illuminated by the moon and two deer. She described the deer as eerily white, like stone. Rachel said in all her years of camping that she has never seen anything like it. As she told the story, I knew she saw my parents together. And here’s why I believe that.
I had a dream while I was a freshman at UT in 1995.
My mom and I were walking in the woods and noticed a beautiful buck with large antlers and wings. He was a stone sculpture that could move, and sadly he had a canoe with the open part facing down on the top of his back. This canoe prevented him from flying. We wanted to help him so that he could be free. We finally did and the buck showed his gratitude by wrapping his wings around my mom as they dropped to their knees. Once on the ground he barely kissed her lips. As he did that her face turned to stone, too and then all of the stone flecked from their faces and revealed my parents young and in love.
It is their love that I intend for all of us to celebrate today and in the coming days, a celebration of love to honor the gift that all of us received in knowing Art Hinds.
It is so appropriate that we have gathered here today. Leaving Junction was a difficult decision for her. In June of 1984 my mom wrote the following in her resignation letter for Junction ISD:
It would be frivolous of me to suggest that I will close a door on this part of my life, never to return, for Nancy Berry Walker’s friendship, the Presbyterian Church, and many beloved students will always be a part of this community, and they will draw me back to their warmth. Also, there was one perfect day on the South Llano River that I shall not forget as long as my mind will last.
I cannot tell you about her life without telling the story of its pinnacle event. I will tell you the story as she told it me. After all, without Gary Hinds it is likely that none of us would be here today to celebrate her life.
May of 1980 she wrote a letter to Gary. In February of that year he passed away. In that letter she said:
You and I have never been apart this long. Some days you are very close to me, but others, when I am making decisions, you are distant. Then I become frightened that I have lost you.
I’m afraid to plan the future for fear the past will fade completely away. Most of my need for you, Dear, is really just selfish loneliness. I know that. But when the breeze comes in from across the river and Tiffy stretches at the back door I long to hear the back gate clang again.
(hand over heart to indicate Arlis is talking)
I will always remember the house on the river as my childhood home. My parents had so much life before I was born and I am ever so grateful for all the stories that my mom took the time to write down. She called herself the “keeper of the memory”
Here is one from before I was born that seems so appropriate to their love of Junction.
By Christmas of 1975 we were living on the river in Junction, and I never would have guessed in my wildest imagination that we would become bird watchers, but the birds were on the driveway, in the yard, at the windows. Of course we didn’t know their names, so we named them ourselves. The bully bird because he was so nasty to the other birds, pecking them in the back of the head, turned out to be the brown towhee. The umpire bird had a black and white striped “hat” on the top of his head, and we later discovered that he was a white crowned sparrow. The pecan birds came and ate the crushed pecans on the driveway, and they turned out to be the Cassin’s finch. It was logical, I think, to predict what happened at Christmas. I gave Gary a bird book, Mother gave Gary and me a bird book, and Gary gave me a bird book and binoculars. Very logical and amusing and wonderful. New Year’s Eve Gary told me he was going fishing the next morning, and I responded by saying whoever woke me up was a dead man. I heard him leave the house, and before long he was back, not only that he was waking me up despite my threat from the night before. “Art, Art get the binoculars and come quick.” January 1, 1976, the Bicentennial began with a bald eagle perched on a tree at the edge of the Llano River. It’s the only bald eagle I have ever seen, and I considered it the best late Christmas gift of all.
In the Spring of 1974 she wrote an article for “Texas Coach” magazine called ‘The 3-2 Pitch.’
She sweetly captured a snapshot of their life surrounding baseball. The end of the story goes like this:
Three weeks to the day after open-heart surgery he was back on the field. And I looked at him and I thought to myself. “Walk the base paths, honey. Hit fungo, pull the pitcher, ride the umpire. I don’t mind. I’m just so thankful you’re alive. You need not speak to me of love. Tell me in your secret language, in pitching tendencies, in errors, in tournament brackets, and in line-ups that the spring belongs to you. I’ll just sit on the bench and be glad I made your team.
Yes, the spring belongs to you Gary, and so do I.
(hand over heart) She recanted this story from 1970, one of my favorites:
Our first year in Midland Gary broke his wedding band hitting fungo. It was not too long before our wedding anniversary, and I suggested buying matching bands for that thirteenth anniversary. He said, “I’m not spending any money on a goddammed wedding band.” I was infuriated. I didn’t know that he had already bought them. He gave them both to me in a green jewler’s box (which I still have), two gold Florentined (frosted) wedding bans. They were beautiful and he was so proud when he told me that mine was engraved on the inside. I’ve worn the band long enough that the Floretine has worn completely off, but the engraving is still legible. I knew that the inside of Mary Todd Lincoln’s wedding band read, “Love is eternal.” I strained to see whatever endearment Gary had chosen. It reads, “Art Hinds 13th Anniversary.”
(hand over heart) With the exception of the last few weeks, I have never known my mother not to wear her wedding band. For 37 years after his death she kept vigil for my father.
Here’s one of her favorites to tell from the 60s.
None of you will deny the fact that I can cry over anything . . . poetry, music, a book. Well, one evening in Monahans when we were living on Calvin Street, I watched Dr. Kildare on TV. In that particular episode the main character was suffering from aphasia (an inability to recall language) due to a head injury. His wife was going to have him committed despite Dr. Kildare’s assurances that the husband would learn to speak again. Kildare knew that she was coming the next morning with the commitment papers. He stayed up all night with the husband thinking that if he could teach him to say just one word that the wife would know there was hope for him. When the wife came the next morning, the husband was under such pressure, that he couldn’t say the one word he had learned. The wife began to rail against Dr. Kildare, and then the camera panned back to the husband who was rocking on the side of the bed cradling the wife’s picture. He was crying, and then very softly he was able to say “W-w-wife.” Well, it was a tear jerker deluxe, and I certainly cried and snuffed, but I had left sheets out on the line in back and I needed to bring them in. I was still crying as I gathered up the sheets. Suddenly, a huge form rose up over the clothes line saying, “H-h-husband” It was Gary wearing a pair of red silk shorts. It was perfect.
(hand over heart) I always loved how my mom found such joy in the simple things. I try each day to do the same with a grateful and forgiving heart. And I couldn’t tell all these stories without telling the one of their marriage proposal.
In spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to love – right? Wrong! If he’s like the man I married he thinks only in terms of an eight-letter word – baseball. I should have suspected he was abnormal when we would park at the baseball field of a winter evening and walk the paths together, but he was blonde and handsome so I forgave him that quirk. He was playing college ball at the time, and I had no way of suspecting the love affair he was conducting behind my back, for he spoke in terms of ERA, RBI, At Bats, Fielding Averages – all very foreign to my sheltered background.
By early March of that year we had fallen into a pattern of dating, and one evening when he drove to the field, he had something on his mind, I knew. As we stood on the mound together in the moonlight (I’ve always been thankful their schedule didn’t include night baseball), he showed me how to throw a knuckle ball. I was waiting for him to throw me a curve, which never came! Finally in desperation, I asked him if we were going to get married. He balked momentarily, gulped, and said, “I don’t know – do you want to get married?”
“yes!” I said.
“Oh soon,” I answered, meaning in a year or two.
“Well, we have an open date next Tuesday!”
Believe it or not, I knew not to wait on a better pitch, so next Tuesday began a long and arduous battle against odds no lone woman should have to face.
I watched while he played college ball and finished his degree. He refused to return to the college dressing room after his young bride inadvertently washed a magenta dress with his white shorts, making all his underwear pink. It was a true crisis which he weathered almost as well as I faced the fact that he had hit the ball which broke the windshield in our newly acquired car.
Here’s a great one from 1956:
When I first began to date Gary, I went out to Odessa College to watch him play baseball. He hit a homerun during the game. I had been to too many movies where Ruth or Gehrig hit a home run into the upper deck. So when Gary asked me after the game what I thought of the homerun, I answered, “it barely got over the fence.” And for years thereafter whenever I had done something I was proud of, he would remind me that I barely got over the fence.
Let me tell you about meeting Gary. When I finally got down out of the willow and got to the phone, this fellow said he was Gary Hinds and he wanted to know if I wanted to go to the football game with him. I didn’t know who he was, and I was reluctant to say yes, but hesitant to say no. Finally, I said ,”Gary, I’m sorry but I am a junior usher at the football game (and that was true), and we’re not allowed to have dates (that part wasn’t true).” I figured that I had bought some time to find out about him and make a decision. Then I began to stew. What if he was really something and I had turned him down? I talked to my friend Deanna Day who was very popular with the boys and asked her what to do and she coached me.
The summer between my sophomore and junior year I went to church camp in Cisco, and I met Jack Gibbs. He was from Lubbock and was a really nice guy. We wrote letters sporadically that school year, and then we both went to church camp at Cloudcroft the next summer (the year I broke the needle off in my arm.) He came to Odessa a couple of times when some event was going on at our church, and I did go to Lubbock to a Tech football game with him, but the distance finally did us in. All that narrative, to get us to my dilemma about what to do over Gary Hinds, a boy I hadn’t even met yet. After the football game, Deanna Day and I went to the sock hop at the high school gym. We were standing together when this Adonis (uh dough nis) approached us and asked me to dance. I said yes with a lot of enthusiasm. When we got out to the dance floor, he said, “You don’t know who I am, do you?” I went with the odds and said confidently, “You’re Gary Hinds” He grinned – it was the right answer. Then I did exactly as Deanna Day had coached me to do. I looked up at him, fluttered my eyelashes and said, “Gary I’m so sorry I couldn’t go with you to the game tonight, but I could go to the movie with you tomorrow.” Pretty forward, I know, pretty risky, I know . . . but the next evening he picked me up to go to the Scott Theater. I don’t remember what was showing – it didn’t matter – I was with a fellow who seemed to measure up to every standard I had.
(hand over heart) As I realize that I have had more years with my mother than she did with my father then it is easy to let go of her hand.
In my family, my father is a legend, and rightly so. My mother is well on her way to being a family legend also. She was a wife, mother, daughter, teacher, counselor, and my best friend. She cast her net of love and understanding to all of you. Thank you for being here to celebrate her life.
I’d like to share with you one of her poems:
WHAT WILL YOU REMEMBER?
It is a selfish thing to wonder if you’ll remember me,
But I have taken time to give you more than just grammatically correct usage.
I have stopped to tell each of you in silent words and loudly spoken thoughts
That you are “someone” – that you have my respect and wishes for the best.
Will you recall that, or will I be “Old Lady So-and-so”?
Will you remember that I tried to help each one of you pass-
Not just my class, but the standards and hope you have formed.
And if you had no future dreams, if the age of sixteen found you defeated,
I tired to give you part of me, of my hopes.
Oh, no, it didn’t always work, but at least I wanted to dream and hope for you.
Will you just remember I liked to sit on the corner of my desk,
Or that I always wrote downhill on the board?
Will you only remember that I never could wear a bracelet without unfastening it unendless times?
I will remember you as being bright-faced, easily hurt, trusting, gracious individuals.
I hope I’ve recognized something good in all of you.
I can only hope that you’ll recall me as I would demand you do-
That I was more than just a teacher or a friend.
I hope that you can recall that I also am a fumbling, frightened, sometimes lost, human being like you
And finally an incredibly fitting piece that I found tucked away on a piece of notebook paper with no date recorded.
My children always wave me out of sight,
And I stand Phoebe-like with no apron to hide the tears.
I stand at the end of a sidewalk or at the end of a drive way
My pathway is ending there and they have all the world ahead
Their salute is tribute to who we are, who we were, and most al all to who they will be
Lord, let me not hold them back with tears
Or apron strings that exist despite my generation’s having abandoned the wearing of aprons
My Children will always wave me out of sight, thank you for that beautiful loving