Archive for January, 2017

FlowerFest 2016: Visiting the Batesons at Laurel Grove

January 21, 2017

The first stop of the day is at Laurel Grove to see the Batesons. You might remember that Thomas and Christopher had their graves marked in June 2016. 

The Densler Mausoleum is not far away, so we stroll over to see Aunt Polly and her people, who are not related to the Bateson people at all. 

It is always dark at the Denslers because of the huge old trees. So dark today, that the reflective markers on Sugar’s shoes show up in the photo in broad daylight. 

We find a large downed cherry laurel with a hollow cavity. This casualty is probably from Hurricane Matthew. 

A good portion of it has been cleared away, and Sugar spots the mistletoe. 

Over the years, the list of poinsettia memorials has changed a little. Today, we realize that we have an extra poinsettia, and we are close to Alexander family. This is a very old family out of Sunbury, Georgia, and the link is Sarah Alexander who married Alexander Robert Lawton. 

Edward Porter Alexander. Look him up. He’s quite famous.

Louisa Porter, a local benefactor.

Dr. Adam Alexander is in the foreground. There are also Houstons, Reads, and Cummings.

Across the lane is Jeremy and Louisa Fredericka Gilmer. 

Now over to the other side of Laurel Grove. 

We’ve always come to the Jones-Lawton Mausoleum to bring flowers. Augustus Seaborn Jones’s daughter Elizabeth married William Seabrook Lawton, and they are Sugar’s great-grandparents. 

We’re in for a surprise today. Sugar sees it first at the back of the mausoleum. 

Our best guess is that the hurricane rain ran behind the veneer and separated it enough that the veneer’s weight went over in one motion. 

The back of several pieces had identifying writing, like “7th course”, which was probably the original writing when the pieces were made in Italy, well over 100 years ago. Grease marker, perhaps?  

The night before had been down to freezing. This accounts for why the poinsettias looked a little bedraggled today. We console ourselves with”it’s the thought that counts”, and we head across Savannah to Bonaventure. 

FlowerFest 2016

January 19, 2017

Y’all know what time it is. We had actually planned our FlowerFest for the week prior, but changed our dates when we decided that we needed to see Mama Florrie instead. So glad we did, and got to see her one last time. 

If you have followed along in our past FlowerFests, then seriously, you could probably skip this series of blog posts. It’s pretty much the same, yet each year has its quirks. 

Like this year, we scored some awesome mistletoe from a tree that was blown down by Hurricane Matthew in Laurel Grove. 

Annnnnd we’re off…

In Which Mama Florrie Says Good-Bye: Part Three

January 15, 2017

The service at Mt. Zion has finished, and we have caravaned to the graveyard at Bethel where Mama Florrie will be laid to rest next to her husband George.

When I say “laid to rest”, I mean just that.

There was a funeral tent with chairs for the family. There was also some equipment that I couldn’t identify. A lot of the photos that I have taken of grave sites are of a concrete slab with the name inset into the top. I suppose that slab is for a number of reasons: to prevent the grave from being disturbed, whether by man, animal, or natural causes. One of the rigs had a concrete slab, and I realized that her grave was going to be covered over today.

I had noticed a couple of fellows off in the background who were not dressed up, and were instead wearing workmen’s clothes. Did y’all know who they were?

At the funerals I’ve been to, there is a service, then everyone disperses, and the funeral workers finalize the ceremony after everyone leaves by lowering the coffin and covering it over.

There was a little service, then the pallbearers carried the casket from the hearse to a framework of pulleys and strapping, and rested her casket into the framework. The gears were activated and the casket lowered into the ground into a crypt.

That framework was removed, and the rigging with the concrete slab was wheeled over, and the slab was lowered into place. The top of the slab was protected with synthetic grass carpeting, and the gravediggers shoveled the dirt from the nearby mound, and packed it down around the edges of the slab. Then they broke open a bag of cement mix and put that around the edges, then they put more dirt on top of the cement.

I’ve only seen caskets lowered into the ground in the movies. Today was a very real finalization of her death.

Something else happened that I’ve never seen before. I don’t know if this is a custom in the black community in general or is part of the ceremony of this particular funeral home. Each and every floral offering was presented to the gathering, and the card was read to the group, and then the flowers were placed on her grave.

Poinsettias by Sugar

The minister invited everyone back to Mt. Zion for the repast.

I’ve never heard anyone say repast before. I’ve only seen it in a book. Rose invited me again to make sure I understood.

So we returned to the church, and had ham, fried chicken, greens, corn, macaroni and cheese, rice, cornbread, cake, and sweet potato pie. It is almost 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I headed home.


I’m driving along, talking to Sugar of the phone, and I approach the crossroad before I turn left to my Swamped! Plantation. Suddenly I see something on my right at the crossroads, up on the embankment, and I mumble out loud while wondering what I am seeing.

I shout into the phone, “It’s a Great Blue Heron! I’ve got to go!”, and the Great Blue looked at me and hopped off the embankment down into the ditch, and she headed away from me.

Instead of turning left to go home, I turn right to follow her, and she picked her way determinedly. I rolled down the window, and took her photo, again and again. I made a clicking sound to her, like I do when I call the animals, but she didn’t respond. She wasn’t afraid, even when another car swished by from the opposite direction.

She kept going.

I let her go.

Good-night, Mama Florrie. We’re thinking of you.

In Which Mama Florrie Says Good-Bye: Part Two

January 14, 2017

I got the call that morning that she wasn’t doing well and it wouldn’t be much longer. A few hours after that, Rose called to say that Mama Florrie was gone. 

The viewing was at Bostick Funeral Home on Friday, December 9, 2016. I met Sugar there after work. We were the only white folks there. I already knew a lot of the people, but it’s a big family, and there were more to meet. 

It was an open casket, and she looked beautiful. You wouldn’t have known that she was almost 104. She was wearing a peachy-pink dress with pearl earrings and necklace. Her hair was arranged in a short gray Afro. She looked peaceful. 


The next day was the funeral. Sugar was pretty sure he couldn’t go. He said that black funerals can be an all-day affair, and that would be a lot of social time for a recluse. I felt like I should go. 

I made the mistake of not allowing enough driving time. I got there a few minutes after 11 and had to park way down the road at the end of all the other parked cars and walk. 

When I reached the front door of the church, I could hear the music. It sounded like a band was inside, and I joined the line of folks filing in. 

We were about to have a celebration. 

White folks say that: celebration of life. We have no clue. 

I found a seat on the back row. The service had started. There were surely 125 people there, and all the programs were given out. Prayers were offered in jubilation. Songs were lifted up in spirit and praise.

One gentleman, a vocalist, gave testimony that Mama Florrie had called him to come to the nursing home to sing for her. When he got there, he told her that he was planning to sing a song for her, and she told him he was going to sing what she wanted to hear, not what he wanted to sing. He asked her what she wanted to hear, and she told him, “God’s Been Good to Me”. He said that was exactly what he was planning on singing. He shared that song with the congregation, and bit by bit, everyone stood and joined him. The church was full of music and joy. 

The music was provided by two musicians, one with a keyboard and one with a drum set. They used no sheet music, and when someone stood to sing, the keyboardist waited for the singer to start in their own natural key, and he found their key and joined them. It was nothing short of magical. 

I recorded a bit of one of the songs. I hoped that I wouldn’t get ejected for being disrespectful, but I had seen other folks taking photos. No one said, “No, you can’t do that here.” No one asked me who I was and what business I had there. 

The minister spoke of her long life. How she lived through segregation, Jim Crow, civil rights. How she and others like her had to use the back door, and separate water fountains and bathrooms. And how she was of a generation that helped each other, how they shared what they had from their gardens or their pantries if a neighbor or a friend needed a cup of rice or sugar or flour, and how we need to help each other again. 

The rejoicing and singing and preaching lasted about 2 hours. The casket was closed the entire time, until the Final Glimpse. 

Y’all, this is not how white people do it. We have our “Celebration of Life”, and we have some kind of speech by a family member or friend, and there are some songs or hymns offered, but we do not get lifted up in the joy that these mourners had for their Mother Miller. 

It’s been my experience that there is a viewing, and it is generally before or after the service, but not always a part of the ceremony. The casket today was opened near the end of the service at the direction of the funeral directors, and everyone in the entire church filed past. Everyone. It was one of the most inclusive things I had ever seen. The line started with the folks in the pews at the back of the church and worked its way to the front, so that the family members at the front pews were the last to view her. 

Then family members gathered around her casket. No, they huddled around her casket, like players on a team gathering around their fallen leader, arms around each other, swaying and singing to the music that filled the church to bursting. 

Then the recessional, because we are not done. We are going to the graveyard at another church where she will be buried next to her husband George.  The ceremony was at her home church, but she will be buried with George at his home church. 

Y’all, when we got to the graveyard, once again I saw: this is not how white people do it. 

(To be continued)

In Which Mama Florrie Says Good-Bye

January 14, 2017

2016 was a brutal year. 

It was a year of Loss, and Anger, and Sadness, and Change. It was a year of New Beginning, and Hope, and Improvement, and Relief. That was my year; I don’t know about yours. 

Just when I thought the end was in sight, I got a call on December 3, 2016, from Mama Florrie’s daughter Rose that Mama Florrie wasn’t doing well. 

The call came on a Saturday, and Sugar and I were planning our annual FlowerFest for the following day. We decided we’d go see Mama Florrie the following weekend. 

Later that afternoon, Sugar decided we needed to see her the next day. 


On Sunday, December 4, 2016, Sugar and I drove to the little town of Estill to the nursing home where Mama Florrie had been living for several months. 

The Stiles M. Harper Building

The Estill Convalescent Center. There was a nice gentleman standing in front of the sign having a conversation with himself. I didn’t ask him to move so that I could get a better angle of the sign.


We found two of Mama Florrie’s children in the room with her. Rose and Harold were happy to see us. 

Mama Florrie was curled up in the bed. She couldn’t speak, but she knew that we were there. In the past, when we were having a conversation, she might nod her head and say, Ooooh, yeah, in a soft, high coo. Today all she could manage was a small faraway coo when I talked to her, and I knew that she was there. 

Two of her grandchildren called using video chat. Have you used it? It was a small act of closure for that day, although at that point we couldn’t know how much longer she had. I could hold the iPhone so that they could see her, and she could hear them. She responded to their voices with more soft coos and by squeezing my hand. 

Her adopted daughter came in with a tabletop Christmas tree and little stockings to hang. The whole time, we were having conversations around her bed, and Harold would check to make sure she was tucked in properly. 

Before we left, a nurse came in with Mama Florrie’s medicine. The nurse asked her if she wanted the medicine, and she gave a small, vigorous nod, and she swallowed the liquid painkiller that she was offered. 

When we left, she was resting. 

The next morning, I got two calls at work from Rose. One was to say that Mama Florrie wasn’t doing well and it wouldn’t be long. The second call was to say that she was gone.

(To be continued)

HBR: What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class

January 12, 2017

That’s an article in the Harvard Business Review that was published on November 10, 2016. 

I read the article, but mostly I was drawn to the photo. 

It looked eerily familiar. 

Then I realized that my father might be in that photo. 

I have an old “LOOK” magazine that my mother kept because my father’s picture was in it. He was in a group of men, and was very nearly cropped out in the upper left-hand corner. 

So I figured that the photo in the HBR was the same as the one in “LOOK” magazine, and it was the same, yet different. 

After I found my dad in the HBR’s photo, it occurred to me that if I had been taking a group photo of a very large group of people, would I only take one shot? 

I think you know the answer. 

Yay Yay Yay: My DNA 

January 11, 2017

It’s time…

I ordered it…

I’ve been there when four other people submitted their DNA samples. And because I am a slow learner, and I like to observe before I act, suddenly the pieces fell in place. For me. It was my time. My turn. 

I decided the best time for me to submit a sample would be the first thing in the morning. No food, no water, no toothpaste, no mouthwash. Just pure, unadulterated morning breath. 

It turns out that I picked a good time to test. The labs were gearing up for a busy Christmas season, and it took approximately 3 weeks for my results to come back. 

African? That might explain a thing or two…

I love this journey already. 

Another Cat in Sugar’s Backyard 

January 2, 2017

The Sunday evening before Thanksgiving, Sugar called me on the phone to say that he had cat drama. 

Can I just say here that Sugar always has animal drama? The drama is of varying levels, but it’s always drama, at least the way he views it. 

He said that a young cat had showed up in his back yard at dusk. He could hear her meowing outside, and at first he thought that one of his cats had gotten out. When he went outside, he saw her and knew she was hungry, because cats are always hungry. She gobbled a bowl of food, and when he put a second bowl in a humane trap, she went right in. 

 By the time he called me, he had a cat in a trap and no plan. He had noticed she had what he described as a bad wound on her neck. Since most of his descriptions are of a dramatic nature, I brushed his comment aside. I sent a text to a veterinarian friend who told us to bring the cat in the day before Thanksgiving for a spay surgery and vaccinations and testing for feline hiv and leukemia. 


I went over the next day to see the cat, and there was an open wound as big as my palm on the back of her neck. She had been digging at it with her back feet, and it was bloody and crusty. 

She went off to the vet as scheduled. Tests were negative, and surgery and vaccinations went well. Then back to Sugar’s to recuperate. 

Fast forward 6 weeks, and the wound isn’t completely healed. It’s better, but not healed. He goes to another vet who says to put an article of clothing on the cat so that she can’t scratch her neck. Now, I know this vet and she is not a crazy person, but this sounds like a crazy plan. The wound is actually up high on the cat’s neck, like between her ears, so how can a turtleneck protect that area, and when she scratches it, won’t her nails get hung up in the fabric? Sugar decided to use a small Elizabethan collar that he cut down to about two inches in height. She can still eat and drink without a problem. 

He goes back for a recheck today, and I tag along. 

The vet and her assistant were not particularly happy that the cat wasn’t wearing an article of clothing to protect her neck, but they weren’t pissy about it. So they devised a stocking-like fabric tubing. First they applied Neo-Predef powder which helped keep the wound dry, and slid the fabric tube over her head. 

So today’s visit had a happy ending, even though the first vet tech that came in the exam room was not happy that the cat was not wearing fabric protection and said the E-collar was too tight and we should be able to get 2 fingers under, and she demonstrated with 2 fingers and Sugar demonstrated with 1 finger, and it was an entirely academic exercise since her two fingertips were equal to his one, and he used to run a shelter, and he KNOWS STUFF, and if she had known how gentle and kind he is, she would have known that he would be careful and not strangle his cat. She hadn’t even seen the cat at the exam last week. Apparently we pissed her off and she didn’t return to the room. 

And that’s how it is with animal people. 

Here are some photos of Tabitha after her vet visit today. There’s one of the wound, but it isn’t graphic, and it is so much better than it was. 

Wonder where Tabitha will live when her neck heals up?

The British Evacuation of Savannah, 1782

January 2, 2017

Lost history surrounds us. 

Like this marker diagonally across from the Brighter Day Health Food Store and neighbor The Sentient Bean coffee house in Savannah. We noticed it on this particular day because we noticed the storm damage that surrounded it. 

It’s a small, unobtrusive marker in the small strip of land between the street and the sidewalk. If a car was parked in front of it, you wouldn’t see it. It’s not as tall as the modern day historical markers. 

It called Sugar and me across the street to have a look. 












Do you remember a few years ago when Sugar and I took a newly-found Lawton cousin to her first reunion? She was Jean McIntosh Hall, and I say *was* because she died later that year. Lachlan McIntosh and she are in the same family group. 

The storm damage was not from Hurricane Matthew, just from an extremely destructive rain storm with high winds last summer. I know, I know, proscrastion is my blog motto. 

Without the storm causing the branches to fall, cars would have continued to park in front of the marker, thus continuing to obscure our view. And that’s Nature for you, peeling back layers of the past to illuminate the present. 

The Butter

January 1, 2017

Two cats showed in the woods behind Sugar’s house. 

They hovered around several times a day, lounging under the trees. Sugar set up a feeding station and some sleeping quarters in the woods. 

That wasn’t good enough for them. They climbed the chain link fence and started living in his backyard. They preferred to sun themselves on the roof of his shed. He moved the feeding station to supply their needs. 

One day, Butterscotch (y’all knew that Sugar was going to name them) decided that he wanted to live on Sugar’s front porch. Sugar’s cat Errol the Pirate was not having an intruder,  because he was already mad enough about The Butter property-squatting in the backyard, and he decided to try to kill The Butter.  

You can guess where The Butter lives now…

At the Swamped! Plantation and Cat-Collecting Facility.