I am thankful for friends, family and good humans. I recently watched a family say goodbye to their mother. not an easy task, but they did it with grace, humility and love. I was given the opportunity to speak at the funeral, but that is reserved for the family. This was their time to say goodbye in their way. So I speak now.

Mary Jane Nelson was a force, commanding life from her porch. I never saw Mary Jane in her early years, but I certainly saw her in pictures. A lifetime of pictures. A lifetime of love.

When I met Mary Jane nearly six years ago, she was still fairly mobile, making her way around town with the help of her sons strong hands holding hers. I met her at a local restaurant, she was sitting at the table in a purple velvety skirt/blouse combo. Her silver hair curled and her red lipstick on. Like the Queen at the head of her table. I had been prepped for this introduction, bought an appropriate gift in a favorite color. I was walking in with Marc her oldest son, he was holding my hand. I was 53 years old meeting his mom for the first time.

As I look back on that moment, it was in my observation a moment of sharing, he was sharing her with me and she was sharing him with me.

In turn I shared my family with them, through me her number of extended family grew by nine and she welcomed everyone. All my children, my grandchildren, my dogs all of us. Our makeshift family became one.

We dined together, oh did we dine. We brought our favorite dishes, we learned to make theirs.We joined in family rituals like the Memorial Day Celebration, Applefest, soup suppers. We cooked meals, we ran errands and sometimes we just sat on the porch and visited. Without our knowledge we had become Hamptonites. She learned the names of Arianna, Phoenix, Emerson and Nadia letting us know that “Naughtia” was not appropriate to call the youngest, that she was a “good girl”.

She shared her home, her stories, her history, her heart and we are all the richer for it. She had a innocent disposition and a twinkle in her blue eyes. There was always something sweet about the way she would smile when she thought she was getting away with something, like my Nadia. Maybe they were spirit animals.

During the time I was blessed to share parts of life with her, she was generous, loving, ornery, sick and healthy. She was human and she was an original. Knowing her was like coloring outside the lines with vibrant crayons and everyday was a new page.

I watched food and the act of dining together become a language of love. Her love has been passed on and is in full bloom, her children already share meals with friends, family and strangers. Apple dumplings are being made with a new twist on an old recipe, love is being shared, acceptance is being extended to all, just as she would have wanted.

Her son used to say ” she is the entire drink, the straw that stirs it , the sugar that makes it sweet, the ice cubes that make it cold.” She was a colorful part of all our lives and it was my honor to know her and I am thankful.

Rest Well Mary Jane you have earned it.

Until Next Time,