This is a place for all who were touched by our amazing Matriarch to share their memories, laughter, sorrows and love. A common place to share and celebrate in the life she lived - The lives she touched - The love she gave to so many... And a place to reflect upon and remember it all. Let us begin....
My Mom passed away on a Tuesday morning at 5:25 a.m. after a month's illness and years of dementia. The days since have been full of memories, tears, and sadness. But another very persistent thought has been with me. Why does anyone have to die?
We “see through a glass darkly” now, but the right answer to that question will someday revolutionize the universe as we know it. I know that life is eternal. I know that my Mom is going on just as alive and full of love and caring as she ever was. I know that because we are promised that by the Savior of mankind. But why the suffering of death? Why the appearance of death?
I don’t like the common “acceptance” of death as a part of life. Life is a part of life, not death. Death is “the last enemy.” I look for the day when we do not fear death, when we do not acquiesce to death, when we do not give death any more power in our journey of life. I look for the day when ALL life is seen as part of eternal life, and we pass effortlessly into new horizons and a “new heaven and a new earth.”
We must search and strive and pray and grow into a new way of cherishing life, living eternal life, now, conquering the “dream” of death here. Then none of us will have to go through what our family is going through now. That will be a blessed day and I know it will come. My faith tells me so and every fiber of my being that is alive to God’s love tells me so. My mother knew this deep in her being. That knowledge is part of what made her so special.
Mom often let life overwhelm her. Her life was not easy for her, but underneath the momentary tragedies and anger and fear she often experienced, she knew what was real-- what was permanent. She knew that love is real. She lived out from that deep understanding of the power of love.
The unique spirit that animated her being, the warmth that drew people to her and comforted them, her unequivocal ability to forgive even the most treacherous abuse and unjust behavior and words from others--all of this ability came from her deeply acknowledged and expansively lived sense that she was here to express love. It was a divine spark in her and no bad decisions or behaviors on her part or from others could extinguish it.
About two weeks before she passed, Mom was lying in the hospital bed in a fairly upright position. She asked, as she did multiple times a day, "Where is Mama. Where's Daddy? I want to go see them. Can you take me to see them"?
Some days she wanted to go buy a car so she could go see them. Other days she was going to call Gordon, so he could take her to see them. She insisted that she talked to them every day. No amount of gentle reminders that they were gone would convince her of that fact.
On this day, I said to her as gently as I could, “Mom, you know there is only one way you can go to see them, don’t you?” She looked puzzled. I continued, “Mom, you would have to go live with them in Heaven. Is that what you want to do?”
She leaned back on her pillows, shut her eyes and shook her head, yes. I started sobbing. I was holding her hand and through my sobs told her how much I loved her and how I wanted her to stay with me, but if she thought it was time for her to go be with her Mama and all the others, that I would be fine, and all of the rest of us would be fine, and that she was free to go, and that she did not have to be responsible for anyone here any more.
She opened her eyes and kept petting my hand and telling me that it was all right. She kept saying “Bless your heart,” as I cried. Then I told her, “Mom, you know you will be just as alive over there as you have been here. She leaned back on her pillows again and shut her eyes and said, “I know that.” I said then, “You know Jesus will be right there to take your hand and you don’t have to be afraid.” She said, just as clearly as before, “I know that more than most people.”
I continued to cry quietly as she fell asleep. She curled up in her usual fetal position to sleep and for the first time through all of her illness, she did not have a scowl on her face. Her brow was peaceful and relaxed. She had a Mona Lisa smile on her beautiful, sleeping face. I could tell by the movement of her eyes that she began dreaming. Usually her dreams had been intense and frightening. She often cried out in a kind of torment or anxiousness. She did not cry out in this sweet dreaming I was witnessing.
I honestly felt she might be passing on. To my mind, that is when she made the decision to go. I think God was holding her in the palm of His hand from that point on. I think her passing was that simple, sweet moment of letting go.
The week or so that she stayed with us after that had nothing to do with her entrance into Heaven. It was just an after-thought of being in this “corruptible body” for a short time more. She had made her peace with “passing over” that day with me by her side.
There was an extra bed in Mom's room, and the facility had just let me camp out there ever since Mom went on hospice at the end of October. My sister, Genie, had come into town and we took turns staying with Mom.
The night she passed, my husband, Don, had stayed with me at the facility. I was in a chair beside Mom's bed holding her hand as she left us. I had drifted off to sleep for a few minutes, and when I awoke, she was gone. She just looked like she was asleep. Her journey here was completed in the early morning hours of November 27th, but I am convinced it began that day I was crying by her bedside, letting her go.
I feel so privileged to be her daughter, and I am so glad that I continued to be her helper through all these years. I wish I could have done it with more grace, at times, but I am so grateful that she stayed with us long enough for me to rise up and feel blessed by the whole experience of caring for her.
I have been ‘joined at the hip’ with Mom for as long as I can remember. Mom was a special and complicated woman. I understood that even as a little child. She was so beautiful and alive and so sparkling a presence, that everyone who knew her loved her. But she had her private struggles—more than anyone knew. She wanted it that way. She was a very private person, as odd as that may seem. Somehow, I always had a deeply abiding compassion for those struggles Mom had. That is why I stuck by her like I did.
Mom touched so many lives with her love, and she did everything she could to help everyone she could through the years—especially her family. All of us should pray to have the love and the grace that my mother had. What a world we would live in if we all expressed even a thimbleful of the love she expressed throughout her life.
Mom’s spirit will always be with us. Those of us, who knew her, count ourselves blessed beyond words to have had her in our lives.
I miss her so much. I miss caring for her. I miss being able to comb her hair and help her put on lipstick and picking out her clothes and singing to her and with her and holding her precious hands and rubbing her aching back and just being there to let her know I love her. She knew I loved her. That gives me a lot of peace through all of this.
I love you Mom, more than you will ever know.
There is so much I could share about mom - though I called her "mother" most of my adult life - and, my grief is too deep now, so I will let other's words attempt to convey a little part of my feelings... one such person/poet is e.e. cummigs...
If there are any heavens my mother will(all by herself)have
one. It will not be a pansy heaven nor
a fragile heaven of lilies-of-the-valley but
it will be a heaven of blackred roses
my father will be(deep like a rose
tall like a rose)
standing near my
(swaying over her
with eyes which are really petals and see
nothing with the face of a poet really which
is a flower and not a face with
This is my beloved my
(suddenly in sunlight
he will bow,
& the whole garden will bow)
- e.e. cummings
I find the nights the most difficult - when it is quiet and I am alone... I think I'm better, that the grief has subsided a bit, and then a memory or an image slides through my mind and I'm sobbing again... how will I ever sing at your memorial service? Through the tears, mama, through the tears... I love you and my heart is broken...♥ ♥ ♥
Your passing has awakened all the grief I felt and hid almost fifty years ago when uncle Carl said to me, after I saw what Daddy had done to himself, "You're the man of the family now. You have to be strong for your Momma." I was 17. What did I know of strength? But I have tried, in my own way and as best I knew how to be strong for you. And now you're gone and I can't be strong anymore. My heart is broken, even though we've all known this day would come.
What I didn't know was how bad it would hurt. I have lived with a hole in my heart of sadness for almost fifty years and now there's another, even bigger one that will never leave me. I could write reams of memories about you, Mom, some good, some bad, but I can't right now. My grief is too deep, too raw. All I can say right now is I love you Mom. I always have and always will and I hope you know, wherever you are, that I have always tried to be the son you hoped I would be. I miss you Mom. May you rest in peace. You've earned it.
It’s impossible for me to choose just one favorite memory of Grandma, but I’ve managed to narrow down the list… I spent a few weeks with Grandma every summer for most of my childhood. I thought it was the most amazing thing in the world that every morning she would send up breakfast for Robby, Richy, and me on a dumbwaiter! How many kids have Grandmas that did that?
She also had the most magical jewelry box. It was shaped like an actual treasure chest and was overflowing with the most incredible costume jewelry. The most wonderful thing about this jewelry box, to me, was that Grandma let me play with it. She never worried that I would break a necklace or lose an earring (though I’m sure I did both many times). Anything she had, she shared.
Grandma took us to the water slide almost every summer. But she didn’t just drop us off at the park; she went down the slides with us! I thought she was the coolest Grandma in the world… because she was. She also took us grandkids to Kings Island every summer. As much fun as the amusement park was, what I remember most was curling up in the back seat of her station wagon on the way home and being lulled to sleep by her beautiful singing. She said she sang to stay awake, but I knew she sang because she was an angel.
Perhaps the memory I treasure the most is the week we spent one summer with no electricity. Most people would have been furious… or sad, or frustrated, or at least a little nonplussed. But Grandma turned it into a game. She said we were playing “Little House on the Prairie” and it was one of the happiest weeks of my life. It was an adventure, not a trial. I am blessed to be the granddaughter of an amazing woman. Most of what I know about selflessness and service and graciousness and strength, I learned from her.
I love you, Grandma.
While pondering what to write about my Grandma, I found it truly difficult to know exactly where to even begin? Looking back throughout my life, there was hardly ever a moment that she wasn't a part of or connected to in some way. Sure there were times when I didn't get to see or talk to her for quite some time, but she always felt like this ever present cornerstone regardless of how much time had passed. And cornerstone is I think one very good description you could unquestionably give to her. Because to the Bell Family, that's exactly what she was... Our pillar of strength holding up the walls of an often-shaky house!
Her and I always had this strange kind of unspoken psychic connection. As I’m sure she had the same with many others, because there was no doubt she had some ESP abilities. Especially when it came to the safety of her kids and grandkids! When I was a kid, my Dad allowed me to have just about as much freedom as a boy could ever want. Many times, I would grab my fishing pole and embark on a full day expedition of roaming around the countryside at “The Land” for miles with my faithful dog Starsky. So naturally whenever I would go to visit and stay with Grandma, I tried expressing the same sense of freedom.
Usually roaming around Cherokee Park, looking for a good fishing hole, but she was always a little more protective and would make sure she knew where I was going. Well, one evening when I was about 9 or 10, I was out wandering around Cherokee Lake and it started to get pretty late. All I told her before I left was that I was going to the park on my bike. Cherokee Park is a pretty big area, but somehow she was able to home in on exactly where I was? And boy was she pissed at me for being out so late all by myself! I always thought how she was able find exactly where I was like that amazing. Another good example of this “connection” happened several years ago when my family and I still lived at our house on Glenn Ave up here in PA.
As I was going about my normal everyday stuff, all of the sudden out of nowhere I got this powerful thought that I should call and talk to her? It had been quite a while anyway, so I figured I would just call her later that evening or maybe the next day. Sure enough, that very evening she actually called me first! After we talked and caught up for a while, I just remember thinking how that had to be more than a coincidence? I also remember stories from other family members of intense dreams and premonitions she would have when something bad was about to happen to one of her kids. That’s something I always found amazing about her.
Before I got the news on that quiet Tuesday morning she had passed, I remember waking up feeling this strong sense of calm and peace. It snowed here that morning and looked so beautiful and peaceful. I think that was her way of telling me she was at peace.
She Made the Best Damn Cream of Wheat!
One of my most vivid memories of my Grandma was eating breakfast with her at the big'ole house on Glenwood Hill. The way she prepared cream of wheat and buttered toast was so delicious for such a boring type of dish. Both had enough real butter in them to clog even a healthy kid's aortic valve and the cream of wheat had enough sugar to be reclassified as a dessert! It was always the perfect temperature and texture with no lumps whatsoever. I would always gobble it down and to this day, still can't quite make my own the same way!
The Trips to Doe Valley
Grandma and Grandpa Bill had a family membership to a resort-like lodge located on Doe Valley Lake. It was so much fun when everyone would gather there to swim, eat and just be together as a family. It was especially fun for us kids because the grownups would pretty much let us go to run and play like wild maniacs on the nice man-made beach! I always remembered how beautiful Grandma looked in a bathing suite and how effortlessly she was able to float on the water. As she floated there, looking so relaxed, I would use her as a floating obstacle to dive under back and forth. Finally aggravating her peaceful drifting enough to where she would laugh and start trying to grab me as I dove under her.
When it came to us grandkids, she always had such a playful spirit that was directly tuned into whatever game or moment was happening at the time. Like one summer when my cousin Melissa and I produced and performed a very professional play (at least in our minds) for her and any other interested parties living at Glenmary who were present. She sat and watched the entire performance with such a glow of joy on her beautiful smiling face. Giving us a standing ovation at the end. She was always very supportive of just about any of our creative aspirations like that.
I personally owe much of my own inner artistic confidence to the positive encouragement she gave me as a child and even later on as an adult. And for that I am forever grateful.
The Road to Muhlenberg County, KY
I wanted to share this story because it is a great example of just how far she was willing to go to be there for her grandkids. When I was 17 and had just gotten my drivers license, I decided to take a trip from Tampa, FL up to Louisville to visit during spring break of my junior year. I asked a high school buddy of mine at the time if he wanted to go too, which he did and so we both purchased our greyhound bus tickets since neither of us had a car yet. After we were in Louisville for a couple of days, I was talking to Grandma about how much I missed some of the friends I had to leave behind back in Muhlenberg where I was living with my Mom.
Grandma could tell I was sincere and probably out of pure blind love and sympathy, kindly offered to loan me her car so my friend and I could drive down there to visit. Of course my eyes lit up at the very thought of showing up to see my old friends actually driving my own car! How freak’n cool would that be? Never mind the fact I had just gotten my drivers license less than a couple of months prior… Nor had I ever even drove on an open highway solo before! I think she quickly realized how much of a safety hazard it would’ve been for two greenhorn teens to take a road trip in her jalopy 1970s nova! I thought the whole idea was completely shot by then until she came up with another idea.
To my amazement, she said, “I know you would really like to see your friends, so how would you feel if I went with you, but let you drive”? In my teenage head, all I was thinking was “cool, I get to drive on a road trip to see my friends”! A few seconds later, reality finally hit me and I asked, “but what are you going to do once we get there”? As I was sure she wouldn’t have much fun hanging out with a bunch of crazy teenagers! To my amazement once again, she said, “oh don’t worry about your old Grandma, I can just go see a movie or take a walk in a park or something”? So the next morning after breakfast, all three of us set out on the road to Muhlenberg!
After arriving, she spotted a grocery store located next to a park and said to drop her off there, but come back to pick her up in about 3 or 4 hours. It didn’t occur to me until some time later how strange it felt to leave her all by herself like that? After picking her up later, she eased my mind though, saying she actually enjoyed herself by browsing around the store for a while, taking a walk in the park, and then having a nice nap on one of the park benches listening to the birds. She then laughed and told us how several people passing by asked her if she was okay? Probably thinking she was some homeless old bag lady who was living on a park bench!
It ended up being one of the most fun filled trips I had ever taken with her. And she was smiling, laughing and telling funny stories and jokes to my friend and I the entire way.
Fulfilling Her Blessed Purpose
It brings me personal comfort in knowing that my Grandma had such a long and blessed life. Many times it may not have been a perfect life? Filled with much heartbreak and loss, but I truly feel that if we were able to ask her right now whether or not she felt she had a blessed life? I think she would have that big beautiful smile on her face and say with much elation, “YES, YES I DID”! Even though there is always unfinished business and loved ones left behind who still need her, I also feel she has completed her purpose on this Earth. The expiration of the physical body that kept her eternal spirit grounded and tied to this plain of existence, was the last great human purpose she could fulfill.
I grieve not for her passing, I am simply sad that in this life I will no longer be able to take her out for sushi – or kiss her soft cheek that’s been pushed up by her big beautiful smile – or have philosophical conversations with her anymore… Now, I will only see her in my dreams when she comes to visit. And when I do, I will hug and tell her how much I love and miss her. How truly grateful I am to have been blessed by having her be my Grandma.
Her Loving Grandson,
In 1993, my family went to see the Mel Gibson movie “The Man Without a Face.” In it, a young boy without a father befriends a teacher who has become a hermit after a terrible accident that has left him disfigured. After the movie, my Aunt Lana said, “That movie really showed the importance of surrogates.” I was 12 years old and had no idea what the word ‘surrogate’ meant. I asked my father, and he told me that it meant “substitute.” My Grandma Bell was a surrogate for her grandchildren. It’s been hard since her passing to explain to people who didn’t know her that this isn’t just the passing of your typical grandmother who you saw during holidays, got a present from, kissed on the cheek, and then didn’t see for another year. She was a second Mother to most of us. Out of her eleven grandchildren, at least eight have lived with her at some point.
As the Langston Hughes poem says, “Life ain’t been no crystal stair.” For so many of us grandchildren, our families have struggled at times to make ends meet. Single parent homes, broken homes, divorce, lost jobs. Our parents struggled and sometimes life put us in a maelstrom. Grandma struggled too, but she always managed to be a port for us in these storms. And we would tear those boards up, and she definitely let us know what we did to her nice docks, but she would get right back out there and hammer in some new boards. We shouldn’t mythologize her. She was a woman in full, a whole person. This means she had her ups and her downs, she had her sweetness and her ornery times too. In memorializing, we owe it to the deceased to allow them to be just as human as anybody else has been or ever will be. And we owe it to her to love her, warts and all.
I was telling my Uncle Richard that I waited to tell Grandma that I had quit smoking until it had been a month and I was confident it would take. I couldn’t take disappointing her (and myself) if I went back to smoking. Nobody in my life has ever been more disappointed in me than Grandma when I started up the nasty habit. The only thing that exceeded it was her disappointment when she found out that I had dropped out of high school. I was so angry at her and her judgment of me when I was a teenager. I was angry at everything I could direct anger at back then. And while she could be so very harsh when she was disappointed, that disappointment came from the fact that she saw great things in each of her children and grandchldren. She saw our potential, and this fact meant that there was a flip-side to the face of disappointment.
Five years ago, when I told Grandma that I had quit smoking, nobody was more proud of me. When I told her that I started college three years ago, nobody was prouder of me. That was who my Grandmother was. It was the great adversity she faced in her life and overcame, sometimes thrashing just to get a breath of air, that made it possible for her to know what we petty humans are capable of when we commit ourselves to people, to causes, to ourselves. I am better for having known her.
I’m so sorry I shut you out. I’m so sorry I wasted so much time and so many opportunities to get to know you. There were many years, especially when I was younger, that I thought you were pretty amazing. I loved to hear all stories about when you were a girl and when you started and reared the family that would eventually come to include me.
All the things I wrote to you when I was 11 for our “50 years of family” celebration are still true. I loved our garden and dreamed of a day you might have some free time to do it with me again. I loved how you loved the out-of-doors and wished you could come out to stand in awe with me. I also loved your country aphorisms, anecdotes, and wisdom. I loved Glenmary and all the people there. I loved living in the basement.
As I grew up, though, I became disillusioned. I ached to see my mother give up so much for your personal needs and those of a difficult business. I felt sad when I was in college, taking summer courses at U of L and staying with you in the attic bedroom at Magnolia, that you would sing my praises to people because of how well I cleaned a bathroom and not because of my success in school. I even resented what time and sweat I spent helping your situation. But I didn’t have a choice: That was my mother toiling away her days. If I was around, I couldn’t leave her to do the work alone. And I knew the same sympathy drove her labors for you.
I was angry at you for not being able to let go. All Momma wanted, Grandma, for almost all the time I can remember, was to be beside you to enjoy your company and companion with you and pet you during what we all hoped would one day be the time of your retirement from the crazy pressure-cooker that was Glenmary.
Grandma, you needed that peace. You needed people’s attention. You needed my mommy. But maybe you didn’t know that or couldn’t face the possibility. I wish you could have let us be there for you, instead of being there only for Glenmary. Were you afraid we wouldn’t do it just for regal, graceful you? I would have.
I wish I could have communicated this to you – without resentment – while you were alive. Maybe then I wouldn’t have shut you out. But even through all these emotions, I still always knew who you were. I saw you many times. And during some small moments, I saw inside you a little.
I always admired your strength and independence and capability when you talked with obvious pride about your management job at Sears. With what grace, poise, and courage you tried to brake through that glass ceiling—asking to be paid the same as the men, and when told, “They are the breadwinners,” responding, “My husband is dead! What do you think I am for my six children?”
When I was around 11, I remember sitting on the couches late one night with you, Nathan, and, I think, Olivia, discussing a controversial political issue. Years later, knowing your politics, I marveled at how you encouraged the way we reasoned out our own opinion. You supported our using our own minds to weigh the merits of a position you were against. Marvelous!
When I was between 13 and 15, you had made Georgia’s old room (and what would become Carrie’s room) your own. It was late one summer morning, and you may have still been in your gown. You were paying bills and making phone calls against the drone of the TV in the background. I don’t remember how, and I don’t remember a word of what either of us said, but Dick Bell came up in conversation. It was the first and maybe only time I’d heard you talk about the tragedy of his death. It wasn’t a passing comment dropped casually in a family discussion. I’d heard those. It was the first and maybe only time I had felt the tiniest fraction of your still-real grief and regret. Maybe it was even a questioning of why anyone would choose to hurt people like that. I sat on the bed feeling privileged and full of respect and compassion for you.
Another time, probably when I was in high school, you, Momma, and I were sitting in front of the fire place at a newly renovated Magnolia. I know I might not have the details right, but in the dim light, I listened as you recounted how you laughed at Dick Bell when you met him when you were 15 and he said he was going to marry you. Not you. You wanted to be a doctor. Just like Great-grandma wanted to be a nurse in World War I, but her momma wouldn’t let her go. And then, not two years later, Pearl Harbor happened, and just like Great-grandma, you, too, deferred your dream and started the life that would lead to a different legacy. I admired your intelligence and that lofty goal for a girl of your generation. I felt a little sad for possibility you had given up. And I loved you.
I also loved when you allowed yourself, for a few weeks, to engage in something outside of Glenmary that you really loved. Thanks be to God that Genie copied for us that fantastic solo of yours from your only production with Young Hearts Theater. I saw that performance – or maybe dress rehearsal; it was amazing!
As I reflect, for how consumed you were by Glenmary, I am surprised by how many times you were present during important times in my life. You were there at my high school graduation. You were there to watch me primp for my junior prom. Most important, you were there for my two graduations from Principia. In eighth grade, I was so happy to see your face in the crowd as I received what I still deem one of the greatest honors of my life: the good-citizenship medal from the Daughters of the American Revolution.
You were there, Grandma, when college seniors from my class impressed you so much with their sincere gratitude for how God and good professors had shaped their lives and characters. It meant so much to me that you saw and appreciated the soul of that precious place I called home for four years. Do you remember the end of that Baccalaureate service? A rain storm had made all the froggies sing, and you and I caught a few that had been clinging to the windows outside. A newly minted “grown-up” and her grandmother getting down in the dirt in their good clothes in front of a bunch of respectable people! I loved you for that!
When I was in DC after college, you sent me a card for no special reason, where you wrote your heart and said how much you loved me and maybe admired me. I was touched by that rare gesture. I could see that you wished we could be friends. I did, too.
Maybe we didn’t know how, but that was mostly my fault. My world and life seemed so far removed from yours. I suppose I thought you wouldn’t understand, even if I shared. Neither one of us knew what to talk about with the other. You often said so outright. That was my cue to reach out and open up. But I didn’t. I wouldn’t take the risk. I’m so sorry.
My last sweet memory of you was, I think, the night before I left for Peace Corps two and a half years ago. I was in anguish about leaving Louisville with hard feelings. I felt guilty for how mad I had been the whole year I’d spent at Glenmary. More accurately, I didn’t feel that bad about it; I felt bad because I didn’t feel that bad. Anyway, that night, I went in to give you your meds or make sure you got tucked in bed, and I couldn’t hide the tears.
You made me sit down with you in bed. You asked what was wrong, and I just kept crying. At that point, you wouldn’t have known what I was talking about, even if I told you. You didn’t remember any bad history. But your wits and compassion were all about you. You just rubbed my back and held my hand and told me truths. Then my tears were for you. I kissed your face. I thanked you for your comfort and said I love you and good night. You had broken me down, Grandma. I knew you had always only done what you knew how to do. If it wasn’t the best for us, it was still the best you could do. Beloved mother of my beloved mother, please forgive me for not having accepted that.
Did you hear me ask you?
Here I was in Cameroon, so far from being able to hold your hand or kiss your forehead again as you left us. You passed away on Tuesday (27 November 2012). On Thursday, my friend Sister Mary invited me to mass and then dinner with her mother who was visiting from Ireland. I got to the chapel early. There were only one nun meditating on the floor and one Cameroonian sitting on one of the rough benches. In the stillness and fading daylight, for the first time in a long time, I felt the palpable presence of God. Oh, Grandma, I sobbed.
I asked God, and I asked you to please forgive me. Forgive me for not being there with you when I had the option to be there, helping you and helping Mommy care for you. Forgive me for the moments I wasted, shutting out and shutting down. I felt that evening that you would forgive me if I asked. I hope I can ask again sometime, face to face.
Grandma, you would be proud of the man I married. I’ve told him some of the crazy story of crazy Glenmary. I’ve told him of my resentment and regret and love. And you know what it turns out he heard? All he heard was how you stretched out your hand to the poor and reached forth your hand to the needy. All he hung on to is all that matters – that I love you and that you are holy.
We are so sad he didn’t get to hold your hand. He loves you. We love you. I love you.
Chris was my cousin-sister. I think sister first but she was always in my life, she was my matron of honor, always my friend, always my confidant and I hers. Oh the secrets we shared! She was easy to make laugh and the worse something was the easier it was for me to make her laugh. I loved her, she loved me and I am so grief stricken now at my loss I can’t even make an off color joke. That tells you how bad it is.
I loved Chris and am missing her already. But I started missing her in may when I knew I would never see her again. I really said goodbye then.
There are a million things that come to mind when I think of Aunt Chris. She loved the Lord, loved her country, loved her family, and I know she loved me. We had a lot of fun together and she always looked like a million dollars. I always said all she needed was lipstick and I needed paint...not fair. :-) She was wonderful through and through. AC loved traveling, loved to laugh, loved going out to eat, loved meeting people, loved movies, loved flowers, loved plays, loved music and singing, loved going to church, and loved every baby. She was as pretty on the inside as she was on the outside, and that's saying something.
God blessed me with wonderful aunts that I loved dearly, but I was always especially close to AC as far as I can remember. It's just goodbye for now, I'll see her again one day surrounded by her family, my family, that she missed and loved so much. We used to sing and say as the song goes, when we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be...and AC would say, I believe that. I do too. The one thing I always had from Aunt Chris was her love. I always knew it. It was always there. I'm forever grateful. See you again one day Aunt Chris. I love you very much. Thank you for always loving me.
For all of the days I spent in my childhood, in reality my memories are few when considering the years, but among my best memories are those of Aunt Chris, in fact, there are no bad memories, only happy times with a lot of laughs. Bells Lane is where they begin with the feeling of having my own library that just happened to be in her basement. I loved to read and Aunt Chris let me take any book I wanted as long as I promised to bring them back, which I always did so I could take more to read.
I remember Lana and I making chocolate cake batter in bowls that we ate like pudding while we watched “Dr Kildare” and drooled over Richard Chamberlain. And Richard coming home on leave from the Navy having me call Judy to tell her there was a present from Richard that she needed to come to the house to pick up. SURPRISE! And then sneaking to watch them kiss. I remember going to the drive-in to see “To Kill A Mockingbird” with Uncle Dick and Aunt Chris - and a station-wagon full of kids - and Uncle Dick and Aunt Chris sat in the front seat like teenage lovers with her tucked in under his arm and the way he gently rubbed her arm as they watched the movie.
Occasionally, they would look at each other and then kiss. To this day I have no idea what “To Kill A Mockingbird” is about because I watched them and and remember thinking ‘one day I hope someone loves me like that.’ I remember a party in the backyard on Bells Lane where the Twyman’s band set up and played on the patio with enough food to feed a small country. Everyone was there dancing, laughing, and enjoying the perfect party on the perfect beautiful day. I remember thinking I’ve never been so happy. I have this Kodak snapshot in my brain of Uncle Dick sitting at the table in the kitchen in front of a Royal typewriter. That’s it. Just a Kodak snapshot from 40 plus years ago.
Lana took me downtown to see “Dr Zhivago” and then we went to a couple of stores and tried on clothes just for fun. I remember looking at her as she stood in front of the mirror straightening up the dress she was trying on and thinking she was the most beautiful woman in the world and I hoped that when I grew up I could be as beautiful as she is. Of course, I remember Uncle Dick’s funeral, but this is about happy memories, and I have happy memories of Uncle Dick, and maybe I even had a little crush on him because I thought he was the most handsome man in the world. And he was. The Bells moved to Wan-lou where the basement became a theatre that Greg would write, produce, and direct hilarious plays with an audience filled with neighborhood kids drinking Koolaid and eating popcorn.
I remember Richard and Judy taking me to a Toys for Tots concert which made me feel so old, you know, like a teenager - with years yet to go. Then came Kenwood Hill Rd and the fun there having Monopoly marathons with Danny and Jeff that would literally go on through the night until after daylight. I remember Aunt Chris coming in from grocery shopping and after everything was put up having a panic attack when she couldn’t find her money bag with cash and checks in it. We searched high and low and finally, in the freezer in the garage, there it was. Relieved to the point of tears, she said, Now what is this! I said, Cold checks? It was the laughter needed to release the stress of the previous minutes. I remember laughing a lot when I think of Kenwood Hill Rd. Aunt Chris took me in when I couldn’t live at home any more and she never judged me. She simply loved me.
I know there are other residences where the Bell family lived, but these are the places that take me down Memory Lane. I’ve said this to many people for many years - among the people I’ve known in my life that I admire the most - Aunt Chris is at the top of the list. A beautiful young woman with six children found herself in a nightmare she never dreamed possible but she rose above the obstacles that must have seemed insurmountable and found a way to be a stay at home Mom so she could raise her children and still make an income that went from three old people to a 9600 sq ft home and business.
She will always have my love and respect. She has helped any family member that needed help. She’s always been kind, loving, considerate, and thoughtful. I’m not saying Aunt Chris is perfect, no one is, but she has always been a class act, and I love her with all of my heart.
Hugs and kisses to you all, but a big hug and a lifetime of appreciation for you, Aunt Chris.
I love you,
Aunt Chris and my mom, Blanche, were sisters. The two of them met my dad, Stanley, by chance in New Orleans back in about 1941 at the N.O. city park. My dad and Aunt Chris were ‘pen pals’ for a while, until Aunt Chris met her future husband. Then she told Stanley I'm getting married, but my little sister Cricket is willing to write to you’. And so they did, and in 1944 my mom & dad were married.
Now, jump forward to 1960, during our family’s summer visit in Louisville when I was 9 years old; Lana taught me 2 of her piano solo songs that I picked up quite easily (and I still remember how to play these 2 songs to this day!) My Aunt Chris heard me play them and told my mom “Get that boy a piano!” And my parents did, and I took piano lessons, and thus began my life-long love of music and playing the piano, a life-changing event! Thank you Aunt Chris! I remember she used to have me sit on her lap as she played the piano and sang; it seemed so easy...and fun! I saw Aunt Chris twice during the last 5 years of her life: in 2007 and in 2009, both very special visits!
May her memory and love live long and deep in those who knew her.
I am Sister to Robert and Richard Bell from another family, my mom is the same as theirs. I knew Miss Bell since I was a young teenager, she was always soft spoken and kind to me. She was also very kind to the elderly as most of her friends and family knew. We talked very little but I knew when I was visiting not to trouble her much with my presence not that I didn’t enjoy being around her. I loved her and considered her a friend as well as a grandmother. I miss her badly, my best wishes go out to her. I know she was respected and loving to all she knew. My best wishes go out to her family and friends.
In Loving Memory of Mary C. Nunn Bell,
Ma Bell was one special lady of her times. She touched my heart with a mother’s love during the time I knew her. Memories of her will always and forever remain in my heart.
Don’t grieve for me now I’m free
I’m following the path God laid for me
I took his hand when I heard him call
I turned my back and left it all,
I could not stay another day
to laugh, to love, to work or play.
If my parting has left a void
then fill it with remembered joy.
A friendship shared, a laugh or kiss,
oh yes, these things too I will miss.
Be not be burdened with times of sorrows
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life’s been full; I’ve savored much
good friends, good times,
a loved one’s touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief
don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your hearts and share with me
God wanted me now.
"The Will of God will never take you
where the Grace of God will not protect you".
Today, I want to acknowledge someone dear to me on what would have been her 88th birthday, tomorrow, December 10th, Mary C. Nunn Bell, “Ma Bell”. God called her home on November 27th of this year. I’ve been grief stricken by the news of her death, and haven’t been able to separate my emotions from my thoughts since that day. I really don’t know what I want to say. The right words seem to come too hard. I had intentions to make her a video to pay tribute to the life I knew her to live. Something to express my heartfelt emotions about the memories I hold. Couldn’t get it together, I can’t stop crying. Besides, I wanted to be mindful of her family; after all she was their mother, not my mother. I have been crying so much and so hard, one would think that she was my mother. That’s how much she means to me. Although I haven’t been around to celebrate her birthdays in almost six years, the memories of the times spent with her and her family will always be cherished within my heart and never be forgotten. I grew to love her, this I knew, I just didn’t know how much until she was gone.
I remember celebrating her birthdays, making certain to select something for her as a gift to make her smile—clothes. She loved clothes and always dressed for the occasion, she most definitely “dressed to impress”, and she most definitely was a lady of style and fashion. I think that is one of the things we had in common. For whatever reason; God brought us together and I was blessed with the opportunity of knowing and growing to love “Ma Bell”. I first met her and her family on Thanksgiving Day, 1998; one of her children invited me to the family Thanksgiving gathering…”Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”. As I was being introduced to her, she totally took me by surprise; she embraced me with a hug as she welcomed me to her home. Ironically, I had only expected her to be cordial towards me as a guest in her home, and nothing more. To my surprise, I felt more than welcomed; I felt her love, kindness, empathy, as well as gratitude. Needless to say, she touched my heart that day and we developed a loving relationship over the years that left a lasting impression on my heart.
As I was introduced to her children and grandchildren that same day, my emotions continued to heighten. They too, exemplified her teachings of love and kindness towards me. By the end of the day, I soon realized what a loving person and mother she was. And, that she was one special lady of her times. It was on that day that I deemed her “Ma Bell”. That Thanksgiving Day was the beginning of many days over the years that I shared so many wonderful memories with Ma Bell and her family. Thus, I came to feel as if I was part of the family. She was the “pillar” of her family, and she gave herself to so many others and included them as part of her family. I felt that inclusion almost immediately. She had such a loving heart, kind spirit and gentle nature about herself. I grew to love, admire and respect her for who she was the struggles she had been through and how she perceived life in the outcome. She most definitely impressed me as a “pioneer” of her times to withstand the trials and tribulations she had weathered and still have a heart of gold with a warm joy in her heart to accompany it.
For almost ten years, I spent numerous holidays with the “family”, participated in and attended weddings, family gatherings and as well as times of sadness with her and her family. I was never excluded, always made to feel inclusive. I even accompanied her to her doctor visits and emergency hospital runs. I truly felt that I was part of the family. Once when we had to make an emergency trip to the hospital, the medical staff asked her, “Is there anyone with you?” Ma Bell replied, “ yes, my daughter”. I was waiting out in the waiting room, when I answered to the staff person calling my name; the look that came on her face was so funny. She told me what Ma Bell had said, I just smiled and said, “I am”. When I told Ma Bell what had happened, although she wasn’t feeling well, she laughed with her little girlish smile. I always thought she was so cute and funny—her spirit was always youthful and uplifting no matter what. The love, trust, bond and admiration I experienced with her gave me so much comfort and joy during my time with her, and her family. She was a second mother to me in time of need for my mother. In October 2000, I lost my mother.
Ma Bell, her son, Richard, her two daughters; Genie and Lana, her daughter-in-law; Arlene were all there in attendance at her funeral providing support and love to me while I struggled with my emotions dealing with the loss of my mother. It was a trying time for all of us, I lost my mother, the Bell family lost an ex-son-in-law and her grandson got married all in the same weekend. The family support, bond and love helped me hold it together through all of it. The selfless love and support I received from her and her family was priceless to me to say the least. The next May I was there at a family gathering to celebrate Mother’s Day with Ma Bell, after the luncheon was over, she made an unexpected announcement to us by sharing her love for me. She rose from the table and proudly announced, “Sylvia’s mommy is gone to heaven so I will be her mommy from now on”. Talk about crying I could barely maintain my composure. I didn’t know what to say. I always knew she liked and accepted me, sometimes I was able to tell when even she felt proud of me. I didn’t know until then how much she had grown to love me. And yes, she most definitely touched my heart with a mother’s love during the entire time I knew her.
I have many fond memories to share of Ma Bell; I would spend the next week trying to write them all down. What I remember the most and most importantly was the kind, loving, selfless, strong and determined woman that has left a footprint on my heart. She gave me strength, inspiration and love, these I will cherish throughout my lifetime. She was so beautiful to me. She will live forever in my heart; to know she truly loved me will keep her memory alive for an eternity within me. And, I truly loved her.
Happy Birthday, Ma Bell! May God’s peace and love continue to shower you today and every day with His blessings in the hereafter. Your memory lives on with me.
Much love to you and your family,
We met Mrs. Bell at Sylvia's 50th birthday party. It was a pleasure meeting her and she was a delightful person to be around. A personal note to Richard - I know you have lost a wonderful mother and friend. Our prayers are with you and the family.
Ma Bell will be missed. Anytime in her presence was a joy, filled with laughter and knowledge. Ma Bell will always be with us because of who she was. I know this is a difficult time for all of you, but just remember her love and strength that she shared and each day will become a little easier.
I didn't know mary that long, but I have grown to love and enjoy her at Clare Bridge. I can remember I use to call her Queen Bell because she use to always make sure she looked nice everyday with her pretty red lip stick. She will be missed. Sorry Lana it took me so long to respond, but I also enjoy you and your family. You guys were always nice and accepting.
Lana and Family,
I just want to extend my deepest sympathy to you and to thank you all for allowing us to take part in the care of such loving caring woman. Mary Bell had an angelic sprit and a great outlook on life, although I didnt know her long she truly touched my life and I will always remember her ruby red lip stick and her beautiful smile. Again thank you for letting me be a part of such a lovely parting . Lana, you were your mothers strength in her weakest moment and I know she loved you all. You all have an angel in heaven watching over you. GOD BLESS YOU ALL.
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