Home is Truly Where The Heart Is


Stories From a Life Well Lived & Loved....

 

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....

Lana Jackson - Beloved 2nd Born Daughter

 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.

   Your daughter,

   Lana 

Eugenia Care - Beloved 1st Born Daughter

 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
silent)
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
hands
which whisper
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...♥ ♥ ♥ 


 

Richard E. Bell Jr. - Beloved 1st Born Son

Dear Mom,

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. 

With love,
Rich    

Melissa Lusher - Beloved Granddaughter

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.

 Always,

 Melissa
   

Robby Bell - Beloved Grandson

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,

   Robby Bell
   

Nathaniel Bell - Beloved 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.
   

Jessica Bongwong - Beloved Granddaughter

Dear Grandma,

    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.

   Your granddaughter,

 Jessica
   

Regina Sawyer - Beloved Cousin

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.
   

Susan Keeling - Beloved Niece

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.    

A Trip Down Bells Lane and Beyond

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,

 Marti Smallwood
   

Drew Massicot - Beloved Nephew

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. 

Sincerely,
Drew Massicot
San Diego
   

Terra Jaggers - Beloved Granddaughter

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.     

Sylvia Malone - A Dear Friend

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.
---------------------------------
I’m Free
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,

 Sylvia
   

Fran & Darryl Bowles - Acquaintances

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.

Love ya    

Mary McAdory - Acquaintance

Hello,
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.
   

Sheletha Keys - Friend

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.    

Tammy Taylor - Friend

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.