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Remembering Shirley

Remembering Shirley

Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven't time, and to see takes time - like to have a friend takes time.

- Georgia O'Keeffe

 

Shirley Lusk was a phenomenal woman. She was a rarity with sometimes juxtaposing qualities. She was fiercely independent while also valuing family and community.

 

I thought, illogically, that all the people that have surrounded me my whole life would never leave. Pillars of strength, stead fast through all my years. Then the unthinkable happens. You lose someone precious to you. It's still a surprise even though you knew they weren't going to live forever. After the initial shock, sadness and grief passed I felt something different I wasn't expecting.

 

Gratitude.

 

I am so grateful to have been able to spend 29 years with such a great person. This feeling intensified at her memorial service. So many people were there to celebrate her life and enduring legacy. In her old town of Gainesville I remember us going into any store and always being greeted as old friends. People know me by my lineage. The daughter of Claire. The granddaughter of Shirley. I try my best to do these women proud.

 

Even though her passing was upsetting I took comfort in knowing that she lived a long good life and, like most of us hope, left the world in a better place through her children, grandchildren and a couple great grandkids too. I remember going places in Gainesville and people would know me as Shirley's granddaughter. There wasn't a better introduction. She was the type of person who inspired you to be better, kinder and help others.

 

Some of my favorite memories are running around the old house in Gainesville or exploring the backyard which always felt like a mystical forest due to the tall looming trees overhead. My house surrounded by trees reminds me of her old house a bit. We also went to the art museum, usually the Kimbell, with my mother. I also remember wandering through fields hunting for wildflowers that varied from barren to full of life within a few yards. She is partially responsible for my love of art and nature.

 

I am also thankful she was able to witness many of the milestones in my life the most recent being my wedding last October. My husband likes to boast that she told him it was one of the best weddings she had ever attended. So I am thankful I got to share so much with her over the past two decades.

 

Stories are also what keep people alive and I know many from my mom's recollections. Like how she would pack avocados at the grocery store because the clerks would always put them at the bottom of the bag and they would be crushed. Mostly I'll remember her smile, her laugh and her spirit. I hope to grow up to be a great example of her legacy.

 

I will miss her at our family gatherings and sorry she didn't get the chance to see our new house. But the good memories outshine any of the possible regrets for future plans not yet realized.

 

For her 90th birthday we wrote our favorite memories with Shirley and mine is below.

 

My favorite memories, couldn't pick just one, were spending mini vacations on weekends and during the summer with Grandma in Gainesville where there was always something new to discover. I explored every room; every nook and cranny of that house. I read books that had my aunts and uncles initials carved in them. I enjoyed the huge backyard that seemed more like an endless forest. I played with the metal dollhouse and other toys in front of the fireplace like others did before me. I loved visiting the library and the church, getting lost in old places that still felt new to me. I used to complain when I went back home that food seemed to taste better at Grandma's house. But what I enjoyed most was visiting Grandma at my home away from home.

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