Saturday, May 30, 2009

Many Happy Returns

Seven years ago today (has it really been that long?!) my grandmother, Emily Barry Connor Miller, died. I was lucky to have all my grandparents around until I was almost 21--I still have two--and Granny was extra-special. She was kooky and sentimental, loved the Kentucky Wildcats, and got upset whenever she was losing at cards.

She'd been in the hospital for several days, and I remember she "waited for me" to return from college at the end of my junior year. Dad thought she was doing so poorly (i.e. not recognizing people) that I shouldn't even go see her, but the day after I got home, he called home after visiting her on his way into work, and told me she was lucid and I should go see her--it might be my last chance.

I went to see her, and she was happy to see me, but mainly just laid there quietly. I prayed out loud and sang to her, and cherished those special moments. I remember at one point, she called out, staring at the foot of the bed and saying "Oh God, oh Jesus, oh God!" She was not a swearing woman, so I always wonder what she was experiencing at that moment. I remember thinking it might be the very end right then and there.

That night, I was driving home from a friend's house when I passed the hospital, and thought about going to visit her again. I decided against it, though, since it was late and she was probably asleep; plus I had said my goodbyes that morning.

After several hours sleep, I woke to the phone ringing (around 5am, perhaps?) and went downstairs to my parents' room, knowing, of course, what the phone call had meant. "They said her heart rate has dropped dramatically, which means imminent death," my mom told me as she got dressed. We got in the car and went to the hospital, finding her deceased but still lying in her bed, with all cords and monitors removed. We told her goodbye, and left the hospital just as the sun was coming up. We decided to go to breakfast at Cracker Barrel, that being one of the only restaurants she ate at regularly, along with Hometown Buffet :0)

When we returned home, we saw the day lily my dad had planted the year before blooming for the first time. This variety of day lily is called "Happy Returns," and blooms every year around the time of Granny's death. Cuttings from that lily by my parents' mailbox in Louisville now also reside in New Orleans, with my uncle and his family, and in Clarksville with Matt and I.

Just as its parent plant does every year, my branch of the "Granny Day Lily" (planted within the last year) bloomed this week.

I went out to enjoy it with my daughter, Katharine Barry--(middle)namesake of dear Emily Barry, who we will always remember fondly.
I'll close with my Dad's words about this memorial bloom:
"When we returned later that morning and pulled into the driveway, we saw that the daylily had bloomed for the first time. The bright yellow blooms of “Happy Returns” were like Granny’s bright smile welcoming us home. From that day forward, I have referred to it as Granny’s daylily. It is always the first of my daylilies to bloom and it blooms longer than any of them, as well. Like Granny’s bright spirit, no matter how many times I divide it to share with others, it comes back strong."


Lindsay Miller said...

I just read this and cried my eyes out. I inherited from Granny the "sap gene" as your dad calls it! I can't wait to get a home of our own so that I can plant a clipping too :-)


JT d'Eastwood said...

There are three buds that will probably burst forth in the morning. I'll be thinking of Granny, each of you, and how special is the bond we share.

Matt Kelley said...

I never met Emily Barry, but her great-granddaughter, Katharine Barry, has the spunk that I understand she had, just like that lilly that keeps blooming year after year, no matter how harsh the winter. If that's not a testimony to the spark God plants in each of us, I don't know what is!

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful, Jess, thanks for sharing. It IS hard to believe it's been seven years. I remember you telling me that summer that your grandmother had died...

beautiful picture of Kate touching one of the lilies and a beautiful testimony to new life and resurrection...


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