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The Great Cloud
Today is the anniversary of my grandmother’s death. She was born in the 1890s and lived to be 93 years old. She was patient and infinitely kind and oozed love and sweetness. To be a child and come downstairs in the morning, the steps creaking in my grandparents’ brick story-and-a-half on Gresham Road in Louisville, Kentucky, and to smell the biscuits in the oven, and to walk my sleepy self into their knotty-pine kitchen and see her turn and set her soft brown eyes on me and greet me with, “Dahlin’,” drawn out nice and slow so I’d get the full meaning, well. Those were moments with one foot in heaven, to be in the presence of that kind of love.
I miss her so much. I miss the smell of her — Muguet des Bois and Aqua Net hairspray and the faint soapy talcum powder she used. I miss her softness — how she would draw me to her and hold me in an embrace, and because she was barely five feet tall, when I passed her in height, how I could fold her under one arm and hug her close.
Her name was Stanley, and honestly until I was a teenager, I thought that was a woman’s name, and when I met a man named Stanley, I had to cover my mouth to hide my grin. The story of how she got her name is for another day, but it involves typical weird Southern pig-headedness. (I can say that as a Kentucky native who has lived a good deal in the South. We can be really weird and really pig-headed.)
Anyway, I wanted to show y’all a few pictures and just say her name — Stanley Cooke Goodin Jeffries — because I miss her and I want other people to know she was here and she was loved, and she loved me. And I guess I wanted to pluck the common string of love we all have for those we’ve lost, and to invite you to think about your dear departeds, too, your great cloud of witnesses, and to invite you to mention them here. I like to think none of them are ever very far away.