Friday, January 13, 2012

Peaches

It’s probably tough to go through life with a name like “Peaches”--but she was up for it. She was probably the sunniest person I ever knew. I can honestly say that I never heard her utter an unkind word about anyone.

Peaches was my aunt. She was stuck with the sobriquet because of me. When I was little, I loved peaches and I loved my Aunt Sarah. I guess I named her after something I loved, because she was inherently lovable. She was gracious enough to embrace that nickname, and she wore it for nearly 50 years.

Peaches as a young woman

Peaches had a massive stroke on New Year’s Eve and died on January 4. She was 71 years old and she was still teaching school when she passed. She had retired from one school system--and promptly moved to the school system just over the county line and kept going. She loved children too much to quit. She taught special-needs kids—and she was brilliant at it.

My ex, who has made his career in public education, once told me: “Good teachers are the ones who love the kids.”

My aunt loved those children with a vengeance.

At her funeral, there was a huge sheet of paper--taller than I am and as wide as it was tall--covered with handwritten messages from her students. It was displayed proudly next to her casket.

During the service, the preacher read aloud a letter written by Peaches’ classroom aide. Mrs. Payne talked about how Peaches was known for running out to the local dollar store at mid-day to get supplies for her students--out of her own pocket, of course. She was also known for bribing them with the promise of a McDonald’s Happy Meal for improving their test scores.

Her students excelled beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. How could you not work for Peaches?

Our family will not be alone in missing her.

She was the life of any party, because she knew how to laugh. She seized the moment about as well as anyone I’ve ever met. Heaven will be a much better--and livelier--place because Peaches is there now.

The night before her funeral, I was talking with some cousins about her. One cousin was preparing to sing for her funeral the next day. After he gave us a preview of the hymn he intended to sing, the other cousin--very bluntly--said “I don’t think that sounds like Peaches at all!”

I had to agree. I thought for a moment, and then I said: “If I had to pick a song that embodied Peaches, I believe I would pick Pink’s ‘Raise Your Glass.’”

The two cousins clearly had no idea what—or who—I was talking about. (This is where it helps to have a teenager living in your house!)

But a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral...

I was ferrying relatives to the funeral home that morning. One of them was a pallbearer, so he had to be there early. After I dropped them off, I needed to run to the nearby drug store for a few minutes. After I completed my errand, I headed back to the funeral home. It was only a few blocks away, but, as I turned the corner that would take me there, for some inexplicable reason I turned on the radio.

What do you think was playing?



I started laughing through my tears…

Thanks, Peaches. For all the love and the laughter. And for the message--it made a hard day a lot easier.

I’ll see you on the other side—you and Dad save a glass for me, okay?


Peaches and her "little" brother, my Dad