Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Litter Lee

In loving memory of Mary Lynn Stricklin Horton
January 12, 1937-December 2, 1990

She was the same kind of different as me.

My half-sister, Mary Lynn, was my oldest sibling. Her mom died from complications of measles/pneumonia when Mary was about four, and her brother was two.

Before too long, my dad and mom were married, my mom a new bride with an instant family.

My parents lives, like those of everyone we knew, consisted of growing cotton and corn and children.
The world was very small, immobile, static for generations.

An aunt and uncle had moved to Michigan searching for a better life, and had found it there. When the aunt became pregnant, Mary traveled there to help during the pregnancy. She saw how big the world was. She returned home when she was no longer needed, but was never content there again.

There was not a lot of opportunity for social interaction with anyone who was not a relative. People visiting from outside the area always seemed different and exciting. When Mary was sixteen, a neighboring family had visitors from far away Arizona. The visitors had a son, just the right age, and when they returned to Arizona a few days later, Mary went with them as a new bride.

Any marriage based not on love but as a ticket out of town doesn't have much chance for survival.
Mary was soon home again. My parents were angry when she eloped, and the anger lingered after she came home in defeat. She was soon looking for a way out, a new beginning.

We had relatives in northern Indiana, and Mary went there looking for work. I was very young at the time, and was thrilled when she wrote and said she had found a job as a waitress. In my frame of reference, any job that didn't consist of dirt and heat and aching backs was definitely glamorous and highly desirable.

One year she was there, we received a huge box in the mail with presents for everyone. Mine was a black wallet, and inside, she had placed a one dollar bill, and it was all mine! I don't think any other gift I have received in my life was as exciting as that one.

Mary spent her life searching. She moved from job to job, from husbands and lovers, never staying anywhere for long, never finding her peace.

I had a child when I was a child of nineteen. Mary came to stay with Hub and me, helping, teaching me to cook and take care of the house. She never had children of her own, and sort of adopted our first born son as her grandchild. He would follow her every step, and loved her immensely. When he started to talk, he couldn't quite manage her name, so he called her "Aunt Litter Lee".

She became more settled after that, and soon found her soul mate, the first real love of her life.
Soon after they married, she found her greatest love, finally listening when Jesus knocked on her heart, inviting her into the greatest family of all. Her restless spirit was made new and replaced with a gentleness that it rarely seen.

Happiness and contentment came to her life, but her struggle wasn't over.
It all came so fast; the phone call, tears, a lump in her breast, a willingness to fight. The surgery, the chemicals, the waning of a strong body. The enemy consumed the bones, took the energy, but not the spirit.

On a cold December day, first born son, barely a man, so young to learn hard lessons, stood and eulogized his beloved Aunt Litter Lee. She was 53 years old when the battle ended. There is no way to measure the impact of her brief time on this earth.

The Word lets us glimpse into heaven, the perfect place, where we will never hear words like cancer. I think when its my time to cross, that Mary will be there, in front of the crowd to welcome me. We'll hug and giggle, and I'll tell her how hard it was with her gone, and we'll make up the lost time.

We always had a joint birthday celebration; hers is today and mine is tomorrow. I have already had more birthdays than she did, but I never forget hers, these twenty years that we have lived in different places. Happy Birthday, Dear Sis!

For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. Revelation 7:17