Tag Archives: death

Saying Goodbye to One Fine Ass

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Saying Goodbye to One Fine Ass

festus6Winnie the Pooh said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”  This quote sums up exactly how the folks around the Thurman farm have been feeling this week.  The legendary, elderly, clever, entertaining, dirty, scruffy, arthritic donkey, Festus, gave up the ghost yesterday and took a little piece of our hearts with him.

Festus was my hero from day one.  It has been nearly five years since our family left the town life and migrated to life on my husband’s family farm.  The horse and I got off on the wrong foot and I had a turbulent relationship with the mice who invaded my kitchen.  There was the incidental barn cat breeding fiasco, the introduction to the electric fence, and there remains a cow who stalks me and constantly tries to start shit with me.  But Festus, we were tight from day one.  Upon being introduced, I was told how his main function on the farm was to keep the coyotes away from the cows. I don’t know if this is just crap they were feeding me because I don’t really know the truths and myths of farm life, but I didn’t care.  There is only ONE thing I hate worse than that bitch-ass mean cow and that would be coyotes.  I knew right away Festus and I were going to be fast friends.

Festus was old; at least 35.  He was an old ass, but also a wise ass.  He couldn’t get around very well the last few years, his old bones were stiff.  The spring may have been gone from his step, but that ornery twinkle was there until the end.   Here are just a few of the highlights of our friend, Festus:

  1. Peppermints were the way to his heart. The old ass loved apples, carrots, and sugar cubes, but nothing made him happier than when someone trudged out to the field with pockets full of cellophane wrapped peppermint goodness to share with him.  And nothing pissed him off more than when you showed up empty handed.  He was an ass with expectations.  After nuzzling pockets upon approach, he would quickly determine if you were bearing gifts worthy of his company or if you were a human disappointment to be ignored.
  2. He was well equipped. When the little twin cousins, Carter and Caden, were visiting the farm, they excitedly announced to their mom, Jody, that Festus was having a baby.  In additional conversation with the little fellas, they announced that “Festus had a leg sticking out of his belly, so he MUST be having a baby.”  Imagine how hard it was explaining to them that is was not a leg but rather his giant donkey dong.  Old Festus set the bar very high for these youngsters.

    Carter and Caden with Festus

    Carter and Caden with Festus

  3. He was not afraid to use what the good Lord gave him. Festus was really old. He walked stiff-legged and preferred to lay around in the sun most of the time.  His range of motion was limited and so he didn’t move around a great deal and he certainly didn’t move anywhere fast.  Except that one time…when the neighbor’s Jenny (that is what they call girl donkeys FYI, not her actual name. I don’t think Festus even got her name) was all hot and bothered and prancing her fine ass on the other side of the fence.  Perhaps in his prime he would have jumped the fence for this fine piece of Jenny, but he was way past his prime.  He did, however, manage to barrel through the fence, have his way with the sultry temptress from greener pastures, and then collapse in his post-coital bliss.  The only thing he was missing was a cigarette.  He was so tuckered out by his escapade Uncle Bob had to drive to the neighbor’s farm and load his bad ass on a trailer and haul him home.  Festus was not ashamed and he got more than one, “Atta boy, Festus” from my son, husband and other male inhabitants of the farm (filthy animals).
  4. He sometimes had to say he was sorry. On not one but two different occasions, Jody encountered Festus when he wasn’t on his best behavior.  She claims that she was giving him treats and he bit her.   Jody is a farm girl and knows how to saddle and ride things and drive tractors. She knows how to round up cows and raise steers and all that jazz.  So, she definitely knows how to give an ass a treat.  I talked to him after the first incident and he said he was sorry.  After the second time, I started to think she was either showing up without the proper treat or using peppermint scented hand lotion.  Festus wasn’t mean, but as stated above, he had expectations.
  5. He always was excited to see you. It didn’t matter if you hadn’t visited in a day or several weeks, Festus greeted you with his one of a kind, high decibel, uniquely his own, welcome bray.  While I could try to explain it to you, there really aren’t words to adequately do it proper justice.  You can click on the video below to experience a greeting Festus style.  Loosely translated, he is saying:  Hello, my friend.  I have missed you.  I love you.  You better have peppermints. Get over here and hug my shaggy ass”:

 

 

Festus, you were one fine ass.  Thank you for making us smile.  You will be missed.

 

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The Broken Swan this Side of Heaven

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My family had to say goodbye to a fantastic lady today. After 95 years, my grandmother, Violet Stephens, ended her journey on this earth. This special lady left this world just as a person of her caliber should have—surrounded by people who loved and adored her. I wasn’t there when she passed, but I did love and adore her. I was fortunate that she spent the last year living in the nursing facility where I work. So, I got to see her and hug her and kiss her anytime I want. She was precious.

The truth is, she wasn’t even my biological grandma. I was a step. Sometimes that can be complicated. I was 13 years old when I became her grandchild and there was little else more complicated than I was at that age (except for maybe ages 15-19). It wasn’t complicated for Grandma. She just lumped my sister and me in with the rest of them and loved us like she had been there when they cut our cords. I would like to say it was because we were so special, but that wasn’t is at all. It was because she was special.

Grandma was a gentile sprit and kind nearly to a fault. She was the type of person who would go out of her way for other people and wouldn’t expect anything in return. She was someone I didn’t want to disappoint, because she was just such a doll. Once, when my sister and I were spending the night with her and my grandpa, she brought us a flashlight. She said, “Girls, I am giving you this flashlight so you won’t get lost if you have to get up in the night to use the bathroom.” I can’t really capture how endearing this gesture was. The bathroom was literally three steps outside the room where we were sleeping. The house was tiny and cozy and there was exactly zero chance of us getting lost. She was precious.

There was something I should have told Grandma and I didn’t. This isn’t like me at all, because I am pretty forthcoming about my plethora of blunders. I was sixteen and attending a family gathering at Grandma’s. Nearly everyone had congregated in the backyard and I had made my way to the sit on the front step. I was sitting next to a concrete planter that was fashioned into the shape of a swan. It was full of blooming red flowers and I casually reached up and put my hand around the beak of the swan. A good-sized portion of the beak broke off into my hand. Looking back, I know that Grandma would have just brushed it aside had I taken the beak to her and told her what had happened. But I didn’t. I did what I sometimes do in sticky situations–I improvised. I used the gum I was chewing to stick the beak back into place. I am normally not a good secret keeper, but I kept this one for a long time.

Twenty-six years have passed and as of yesterday, that swan with the bum beak was still sitting in front of Grandma’s house. I came clean to my sisters and my step-dad a few years ago and they have all teased me about telling Grandma I broke her swan planter. They never told either. I should have told her. It wouldn’t have mattered to her. It mattered to me.

A few months ago Grandma became very sick and we had to take her to the hospital. I went and sat with her until my aunts and uncles could get there. She was weak and barely able to stay awake or talk. Several times she opened her eyes and I would smile and say, “Hi there, Sleeping Beauty.” Each time that day she said the same thing to me: You aren’t my real grandchild. You aren’t my great-grandchild. You are a really great grandchild. She had never said that to me before that day and never said it to me again. I should have told her then I broke her swan.

At her funeral, my mom (who is a dynamic speaker) shared that my Grandma had left a note to her and my step-dad on a visit to their home about fifteen years ago. It was also something Grandma hadn’t spoken to them about before or since she left it. It was a request to have the following poem read at her funeral:

“Miss Me But Let Me Go”

When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little-but not too long
And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love that we once shared
Miss me-but let me go

For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone.
It’s all part of the Master’s plan
A step on the road to home

When you are lonely and sick of heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds
Miss me but let me go.

Author: Anonymous

My Grandma didn’t have many worldly possessions. She didn’t need many. She was content in her family, faith and community. I am a step. Sometimes that gets complicated, but I have decided to ask for the broken swan. I think it would look lovely on my porch with the flowers blooming and a broken beak. Moreover, it will serve to remind me to strive to be more like her. Maybe I can choose to focus on the good in people, to serve others more and to put God and family first. I get that wrong a lot of the time. She got it right. If I am entrusted with the planter, I hope Grandma knows it will be the most treasured broken swan this side of heaven.

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