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Rene, Remembered

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Her parents named their youngest baby girl Florene. But all her friends called her “Rene”.

I wasn’t born into the privilege of being Rene’s niece. However, I was fortunate enough to have married into that position. And you didn’t have to BE genetically related, to feel like you’d become family to Rene.

I only knew Rene during the last twenty five years of her life. You can’t properly eulogize a life you witnessed only a fraction of. Still, I’d like to share a memory or two of what I did see, through my little window into her life.

Rene was the youngest of six children born to a hard working farm family at the beginning of the Great Depression, in the hills of North Carolina. She left the farm behind, married, and became a bookeeper to several large businesses in her community. When I met her, she was finishing her professional career, and was moving into retirement.

She was a woman who spoke simply, and honestly; a woman of few words. But her face, and more importantly, the twinkle in her eyes, conveyed a depth of meaning into those few words that poets long to achieve. When she liked someone, or something, her whole face glowed incandescently, lit from the inside. And when she didn’t like something? Well, she let you know that, too. 🙂

She had a fun-loving sense of adventure, that found her ready for just about anything. She loved to travel, and toured Europe with her sister, cruised to Alaska, traveled to Hawaii, as well as taking bus tours to various other states. Arthritis stole her ability to continue doing the things she loved doing. I don’t think there are enough bad words in the English language to say how I feel about that.

Rene at Halloween, a few years ago.

She swam, to try to stave off the arthritis, conquering what had been, up to that time, a life-long fear of water. She medaled in the Senior Olympics, too.

She was a widow, from the day that I met her till the end of her life, and she never wanted to marry again, either. She was quite adamant about that. But that didn’t mean she stopped appreciating handsome men. On the contrary, we always knew when she had a good looking male doctor or physical therapist. Her eyes would sparkle whenever she talked about them, and it was no trouble at all to get her to keep those appointments. The woman flirted with those blue eyes of hers and with that sweet smile, and she did so, shamelessly. Her doctor was so smitten, he would actually walk her out to her car after her appointments, and kiss her goodbye on the cheek. She charmed her way out of getting a speeding ticket on more than one occasion.

(Did I mention her lead foot when it came to driving?)

Getting a kiss from one of her favorite men.

Rene was a woman of great faith, a Bible believing, church going Baptist, until her failing health prevented her from continuing to attend church services. But she never allowed her love of fun to be squashed by her Baptist traditions. She had a reputation for being a Bingo Shark at the the retirement center where she lived. There also may have been a few incidents that involved playing the ponies. In the last couple of years, she talked one of her nieces into taking her to a winery to visit, and began enjoying sampling various types of wine.

Rene’s mind was sharp until the end, which makes the crumbling of her body all the more a tragedy. On the day of her death, despite her inability to speak, my husband and I were able to speak to her over the phone: to tell her how much we loved her, and to pray for her. My sister in law told me that her face lit up when she heard our voices. I’m grateful for that little nugget.

She was my children’s only “grandparent”. She pampered them with gifts at Christmas, and contributed to paying for my daughter’s dance lessons. She took my kids into her heart, just as she invited me into her family. There’s no one left in our lives to fill that hole. Our loss is huge.

But we thank God that Rene’s not hurting anymore. We thank God she has a body now that will match her indomitable spirit. And we KNOW the Lord is absolutely charmed to have her that much closer. Heaven’s gain is our loss.

The Birthday Girl, sporting her Birthday Tiara, on her 80th birthday.

We love you, Rene.