Sixteen Hours in Texas

The sad truth is the truth is sad.
~Lemony Snicket

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My dear friend Misty’s people are from Texas. It’s not their fault. Don’t hold it against them. I met her when I moved to Little Rock when I was 16. She was my first friend here. She’s been good to me beyond words for more than two decades.

When her mother, Janie, died last week, it was sad, but not shocking. She’d been sick for a long time. She’d beat cancer twice, already. Her body just couldn’t take any more. During her life, she’d buried her parents, both her sisters and three children. I’m not sure our souls are designed to endure all that. She is at peace, which is all any of us can hope for.

I was in and out of their house probably four thousand times when I was a teenager. No telling how many things she said to me. But one in particular stuck. In a time when folks weren’t exactly nice to me, I was sobbing to Misty about how small they’d made me feel.

Janie heard me. She told me to pull myself together. She told me to walk tall and hold my head high. She told me I was never to let anyone else decide how I felt about who I am.

There are days I still need that advice. I’m grateful to her still for giving it then.

The thing about funerals is there’s never a good time for them. Childcare on the fly in the summer is tough to manage, so I really didn’t need to be gone more than a day. So I drove from Little Rock to Wichita Falls and back.

I spent 16 hours round trip. I got caught in a traffic jam among tractors in DeKalb, which nearly gave me a panic attack. I dropped my keys behind the toilet in the ladies’ room of the Henrietta Dairy Queen and seriously considered if I could figure out how to hot wire a Subaru. I was dragged into a gas station conversation in Saint Jo over what the proper post-case-of-beer snack might be. I stuck out because I was the sober one trying to buy a bottle of water.

Somewhere in there, we gave Janie a dignified send off. I hugged Misty and her father. They said a proper good-bye. They choir sang old gospel songs. It got to me. It always does.

Just a few more weary days and then…


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