Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wednesday Wonder ~ Dar's Beautiful Life

"Because when Clyde died, there wasn't much of me left."
Written by Dar, my sweet friend Jessica's grandmother, in the letter I received just two weeks ago.

I thought of Dar's love and appreciation for her late husband, her connection to him, and how lonely she must of felt when he died. I thought of her leaving her beloved Hawaiian home to return to Little Rock, where over the next handful of years she enjoyed her family but also battled health problems.

"I am blessed in so many ways. My 25 years with Clyde were the best years of my adult life - then to come home to be with all my family, and to have them be so good to me - what would I have done had I stayed in Hawaii?"

It had been the right thing to move back to Little Rock after her years on the island, but certainly not an easy thing.

"Tell your mom I still have the dear little vase she left she left me when she was there."

She concluded by telling me how she and all of her Little Rock family were to return to Hawaii this June. I've heard Dar say that with Clyde gone, she had no desire to return. But perhaps the idea of enjoying her children and grandchildren again on the island she loved so well changed her mind.

I placed Dar's hand-scrawled letter above my kitchen sink and read it several times, grateful that she took the time to write.

Dar stayed on my mind the following days, and about a week later I sat down to write her. She was so heavy on my heart that day, I considered sending her flowers "just because." I started to look up florists and couldn't decide what would make her happier - an arrangement, or a hand-written note with photos of the blooming pink tulips in my yard - a feeble attempt to connect with her appreciation for flowers and gardens.

But the next afternoon I received a text from Jessica that Dar was spiraling downhill fast, that her health was declining. And then the very next day when I called to check on her, Jessica told me Dar had just passed away.

I put my head down on the kitchen counter and just cried. Perhaps had I seen her in physical pain and distress, it would have been less of a shock. But it happened so fast that I surprised myself with the grief I felt.

Dar and I shared a love for Hawaii - my birthplace, and her home for the last thirty or so years. We shared a special love for February 4th  - my first-born's birthday fell on her 75th birthday. And most of all, we shared a love and admiration for Jessica - my college roommate and dear friend, and her only - very doted on - grandchild.

The four of us college roomie couples went to visit Dar and Clyde a couple of years after we were all married and stayed a week at their home in Oahu. Then after the roomies left, my parents and brothers came and Dar allowed my family to stay in her home as well while she traveled back to the mainland.

Dar and Clyde meeting us at the airport with fresh, fragrant leiis. And Kristin - sorry about the massive red palm tree across you... photo taken from my scrapbook!
Swimming and fully enjoying Dar's backyard. My fav memory of this day was all of us talking about Kristin and Eric expecting their first child (Adeline!), and how it would be YEARS before Corbin and I were ready to start a family. I had no idea I was already expecting.

Roomies - Jessica, Kirsten, me, Kristin
Roomie hubbies - Todd, Eric, Brandon, Corbin

Our super-memorable luau. Goodness.
Dar was a gardener. Her backyard landscape was beyond description - lush and tantalizing and took over an hour to water daily. My mom, also a gardener, was scared to death that Dar would get home to a much-loved plant that had withered under our care.

My family enjoying our own vacation staying in Dar and Clyde's home
What I hope to remember about Dar -

- She exuded beauty and peace. I know her life was not uncluttered. Growing up as one of eight siblings, I can only imagine what she experienced and endured during her years. But by the time I met Dar she was in her 60s, and she carried a disposition of calm beauty. And a wide, lovely smile. And her amazing cheekbones! She loved Hawaii for the relaxed pace and calm island mentality. She loved the people, the landscape, and of course the majesty of the ocean - a love which her granddaughter absolutely inherited.

Dar with four generations of her family - daughter Pam, granddaughter Jessica, great-granddaughter Rebecca
- Because she loved Jessica, she loved me. She took in Jessica's friends as her own friends, and treated us with respect and interest.

- She was always learning, always observing. During our conversations over the years, Dar truly listened. She asked detailed questions throughout our talks and always seemed interested and eager to learn about someone else's life, someone else's perspective. Dar was a great conversationalist because she was a great listener and a great question-asker.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Darnelle's beautiful life. You created her as a lovely person, and gifted her with a long life fully knowing and enjoying her family for four generations. She brought much beauty to this world, and it continues through the hearts and lives of her loved ones.

Darnelle Gentry Friar 
February 4, 1925 - March 29, 2014

Psalm 121
I lift my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and the earth.

I love writing these "Wednesday Wonder" posts, because when I see amazing people doing extraordinary things, I want to shout it from the rooftops. Or at least from my little blog!  The people I highlight here are "Wonders" in my eyes because I see God's work in and through them - His work transforming the ordinary to extraordinary. But it typically takes a willing heart, some risk, and an offering of "yes" for Him to transform.