Friday, October 17, 2008

When Harry met Anne ... and then Jean.

When Harry met Anne, he produced three big, strong, strapping Stewart men. Years and years later, after a good long life together, Anne died and Harry was alone. Thus began the period that the Stewart family lovingly calls “The Harry the Hermit Years.” Then Harry met Jean, and he was no longer alone and gained two new stepdaughters. Jean pulled another eight years out of her pocket and dropped it in the Stewart family lap. When I met Mr. Husband, he first introduced me to his parents, one week after kissing me for the first time, and then two weeks later, he took me to Nashville to meet Granddaddy Stewart and Jean.

While everything around us yet refuses to be just perfect with the house, we take time for family as we did last weekend. There is always family. This past weekend was Granddaddy Stewart’s memorial service. Granddaddy donated his body to Vanderbilt so that the students learning to be doctors could increase their big brains with knowledge of his brain and other parts. It was a noble thing to do. He was the noblest of men. The phrase that resounds after his death and all through his memorial service and remembrance is “he was a man without guile.” He was a man without deceit. He was truth. He was completely caring for all. He was all kindness. He was goodness in all things.

I believe Granddaddy Stewart may have been an early hippie. Or one of those rare things--a true Christian.

Granddaddy lived for others and lived to make them happy and see their lives easier. In that vein, his memorial service, which fell some three weeks after his actual death from Prostate Cancer (at a long and wonderfully lived ninety-years-old), was a celebration of life. It was a celebration of family. It was a coming together for the entire family. From the four corners, or perhaps just two, the Stewarts descended upon Nashville. There are three Stewart boys: David from Tokyo, Dick from Florida, and John, my father-in-law, from Birmingham, Alabama. All three men brought their hearts and their families to Nashville to convene for a big Stewart family gathering. All of this—all of what we did that weekend was due to this one man’s bringing life into the world. And that one man’s many lives that he brought in turn brought their lives. Bring it we did. And so there they were: nine primary Stewart cousins with a few extras thrown into the Stewart family pile (I am an extra as a wife of one of the original nine cousins, for example).

Many others came. Other cousins like my favorite cousin Tom and his brother Alan. These are the cousins of the parents—extended family at its finest. Everyone gathered together with the same sense of humor and the same incredibly fine outlook on life that was surely handed down among the generations from fine Granddaddy Stewart who we came to memorialize. All of us laughing. Some of us getting to know each other for the first time. In the end—Granddaddy gave all of us one big gift: he gave us each other.

For the first time, I met my girl cousin from Uncle Dick’s family, cousin Crystal. Why we didn’t get to know each other before now is a crime. She just passed the bar and is fighting to change the world in D.C. For the first time, I got to meet Andrew from Honolulu, another lawyer cousin. Andrew got Mr. Husband to smoke a cigar at Yazoo Brewery. Ok, so Mr. Husband took one puff. Still. Andrew is a persuasive lawyer, he is. His wife is a laywer, too. Lots of lawyers, but my favorite cousin Tom is not a lawyer--he's an architect. The other favorite cousin Tak works in an architect firm. A handful of lawyers with a couple of architects under the fingernails. It's an intelligent group. Many more careers hiding behind other cousins, too.

On Friday night, the whole family went to The Station Inn in Nashville to see a bluegrass band, The Steep Canyon Rangers. We ate pizza and drank beer. We talked and got to really know each other. We hung out. We were family. We sat comfortably side-by-side and knew that we were safe. We were all brought together by Granddaddy Stewart. It was a wonderful evening that spilled over into the next day and into the next evening. Everyone eager to see each other and to know each other. Everyone.

We came together to remember. And we did.

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