Miss Kitty. As Bro. James so eloquently put it, “She has gone to the ‘House’ ”.
On August 10, one of the most wonderful women I have known headed to her final reward. As Bro. James (Pastor of Social Springs Baptist Church) said, ‘she is now kicking up gold dust’. Considering Miss Kitty loved the Lord with a passion, his words are probably truer than we think.
As we traveled from the funeral home to the grave site, my mind reflected on the beauty of Miss Kitty’s last gathering. The people gathered there weren’t just ‘onlookers’, but those who truly loved and honored the celebrant. There wasn’t a stiff posture in the place, and tears flowed freely. Yet, a smile or two broke through the wetness, as long-forgotten memories were stirred.
Miss Kitty was the epitome of the Country Woman. When life got tough, she got tougher. When life was crazy enough to throw rocks at her, she snatched up a four-by-four, stepped up to home plate and knocked those suckers right out of the ballpark. She told it like it was, and if you didn’t like it, too bad. Sometimes, she didn’t have to say a word, but you knew it anyway, because of the way she lived. She would tell you to ‘come by the house’, and you knew that was an open invitation. The Country Boy and I stopped by a couple of times, and felt just at home there as we did in our own. When Randy was cutting hay and would drive the tractor by her house, she would come outside for a quick visit. Her compliments were something to be proud of, because you knew she meant it, and wasn’t out to flatter you. Nope. Because if you weren’t doing it right, she would have told you that instead. And probably left a little stream of blood flowing, from the razor-sharp edge of her words.
I learned a lot from Miss Kitty. As a city girl, there were a couple of times I would get ‘the look’ from her, when I said something that, to me, was serious, but to Kitty showed a total lack of common sense. At first, it was a scary look, like she was about to verbally snatch my head off my shoulder and stuff it full of sense. I learned quickly to scrub any essence of whining out of my voice, because if I didn’t, she would grab a virtual bottle of bleach and scrub it herself. Her responses, though, made so much sense, that I learned to be grateful for ‘the look’. It meant I was about to learn a significant life lesson, and I had better be paying attention.
“Nobody promised you an easy life. You just need to deal with it, get over yourself, and keep moving. And it wouldn’t hurt you one bit to use those knees for their intended purpose. ”
She knew this from experience. There were many an evening I would pass by the store in Hall Summit to see her sitting in there, going over the books. That she had already worked a full day at her job, gone home to cook James (her husband, James, not her Pastor, James) dinner and left there to work at the store wasn’t an issue with her. It needed to be done, so she did it. She had been known to be out in the hayfield raking or baling hay, with only the lights from the moon, stars and tractor. Even if she finished up at one in the morning, she was back up and at work on time a few hours later. Knowing her, she never stopped praying, either.
One evening, she and James came to our house for dinner. We love to have friends and family over, and always have a great time. But this one night has become almost sacred to the two of us. The further into the evening we got, the more we were…blessed….(it’s the only way I can describe it, but still doesn’t offer the full impact of what we felt)…to have an opportunity to see ‘the other side’ of both of them. On a day-to-day basis, we all have a side that we show to the general public. But in a private moment, that cloak of ordinary was shed, and we saw and heard things we never would have imagined. James kept us laughing and shaking our heads with his stories. Miss Kitty kept our hearts lifted with her rare smiles and even rarer laughter. Our jaws hit the tables on a couple of times when they described their early life with four children, and some of the hardships they had really been through. It was the first time I realized there were four children, instead of the two I knew who lived close. And the more I learned of their children and grandchildren, the more the love those two had for them lit up the room.
Later, I got the impression that speaking of their love for their children was rare. Maybe I am more sensitive to that, as my own father was hard put to actually say the words, ‘I love you’. Sometimes, you just have to look harder, and dig deeper through the heavy layer of crust and steel to find it, but it is there. James and Kitty did love their family. The Country Boy and I know. We heard it. We saw it. And were blessed by the experience.
Bro. James could have offered a more sedate eulogy. As an educated man – both academically and from The School of Life – he could have been much more formal in his approach. But as Miss Kitty’s pastor, he took a page from her life. He made it real, and for a moment, his words and Bible passages stirred up a strong enough storm of memories that you could almost see her standing next to him, nodding. Especially to the ‘House’ part. Around here, we all know what it means to ‘come to the house for coffee’, or ‘It’s been a long day. I am headed to the house’. Which is exactly something Miss Kitty would say. Which is why I believe was the source of the smile on his face. I noticed he couldn’t keep from grinning. He knew, in his heart of hearts, where Miss Kitty was now residing, and he was excited for her to finally be in the one place she and all other Christians long to be – in the presence of God. Miss Kitty will be missed here on earth. Her love of God and Christ has assured her a place in her Heavenly House, and I look forward to joining her there one day. Knowing her like I did, she is probably shouting down the clouds with her voice lifted in joy. I can’t help but wonder if we were given a rare earthly glimpse of all that as it was thundering during the service. Hmmm…
…You know? As I left the graveside, I could have sworn I saw a fleck of gold dust laying there on the ground…