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June 15, 2008

In Loving Memory

I had just gotten into bed and was watching a video of Stacy Westfall riding in memory of her father. (This woman is an incredible trainer and rider.) The song she was performing to was Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying. For some reason, as I watched her ride and control her horse without a saddle or bridle…my eyes filled up with tears and I became overwhelmed with emotions. All I could think about were my grandparents…not just Mama Clair- and not just Jimmie, but them together.
Then the phone rang.
“Your Mama Clair just passed away, honey”
I was speechless. I got goosebumps. I felt relief for her pain and sadness for my own selfish heart. Tears ran like a river down my face. My mind was empty.
My father’s voice cracked as he told me that she passed peacefully in my aunt and uncle’s home. I told him I had both her and Jimmie on my mind just before he called. For some reason, in recent years I never thought about the two of them together…just one or the other. Maybe it was my self conscious preparing me for the call.
She always worried about Jimmie being alone after he passed away. We would always tell her that he wasn’t alone- he was busy watching over all of us. Now I know that he has someone on his arm, who has missed him very much…just in time for Father’s Day.
Mama Clair accomplished many things in her life. Many things that were well-before her time. She traveled to Bridgeport, Connecticut (from her native Hyde County) by bus, train and car shortly after she graduated college. She migrated back to NC to work in the then, Engelhard Banking & Trust Co- one of the only banks to see any profit during the depression. She continued to work as the treasurer of the bank well into her 70s. (At the time she retired, Engelhard Banking & Trust had changed it’s name to East Carolina Bank- and had over 25 branches.) She raised two hard-headed boys, who both grew into hard-working fathers. She took care of her husband after he had a heart attack that left him with only 1/4 of a working heart. And in her spare time, she managed to collect numerous china patterns- all complete and most, in their own china cabinet. (She could spot a fake ‘blue willow’ plate a mile away at an antique show!)
Of all the things she’s accomplished in her life, the one thing she wanted most was to see her boys and their girls together in one room- laughing, telling jokes, sharing stories… She didn’t just want us to get along- she wanted us to be best friends. She wanted my cousins and I to feel like sisters- she wanted us to see each other more than once a year. Even though seeing her health fail was hard on everyone, it brought us all together and today we are all closer than we’ve ever been. I think tonight, when she closed her eyes she felt all her hopes and dreams were accomplished.
Mother’s Day 2007
3 Generations of Spencer Girls

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