Friday, June 05, 2009

Addie Lee Hunnicutt Lister at Devil's Den State Park

This morning I met Addie Lee Hunnicutt Lister, and my life is richer for it.

Addie Lee was another guest at the Sky-Vue Lodge in Winslow, Arkansas. This morning at breakfast there were two tables of guests. Everyone at one table left except her, so, I said, "Come join us." She came over, limping slightly, saying she had broken her pelvis a couple of years ago and was still using a walker when on rougher ground.

Kris and I started talking to her and learned that she spends every June in Winslow, volunteering at Devil's Den State Park, talking about when it was built as a CCC project. That is the Civilian Conservation Corp, which was the equivelant of the WPA for 18-21 year olds.

Addie Lee met her husband when he was working at Devil's Den Park as a young man. Devil's Den is known for the extraordinary rock work, which Addie Lee says was built on the strong backs of young men.

She and her husband had quite a life together, until he died in 2002. He eventually became a pharmacist and they had a son together.

Devil's Den State Park wanted to add a statue to commemorate the CCC, and Addie Lee and her son made the final necessary contribution to make it possible.

Addie Lee was asked to write the plaque that is below that statue.

In the visitor's center - our first stop after arriving in the park - we found Addie Lee is mentioned in the information there.

If you're lucky, and you come in June, you'll get the chance to visit with Addie Lee at the park. Or at Sky-Vue Lodge over a delcious breakfast. But, you might want to visit soon. Addie Lee says she will turn 92 on July 4 and she's just not sure she'll be able to come next year.

However, I gotta tell you, I'm betting on Addie Lee.

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I attended the funeral service today of Greg's aunt, who was a nun. Gathered together were her family of blood and her family of choice, as well as many others who's lives she touched over the years she served in schools and hospitals.

She was 89, and her mind had started to slip in the last few years. I didn't know her well enough to say for certain but I'm guessing she was aware that was happening early on and it must have been terrifying. But of course that's the perspective of someone outside her belief system. Maybe with her faith she simply accepted it without question and with grace.

The beautiful St. Peters in Joplin was filled with people who remembered her from the many years she worked there. The breast care center at St. John's hospital where she served was named after her some years ago. There's a garden there dedicated to the memory of her mother.

She was the last of her generation, The last of a family of five brothers and two sisters.

I am so proud of Greg and how he conducted himself the last week and a half. When he got word she was nearing the end he took off to Omaha, where her order has a retirement facility. Greg was by her side for the days and nights, holding her hand and talking to her about anything pleasant, and assuring her of the love of her family, mentioning people by name. Greg was with her when she died.

It is an honor to attend the dying, but it is not easy. Some are more equipped to deal with such things than others. But it's not easy for anyone. Greg simply knew it was a gift to be able to be present for those you love in times of need.

Sister lived her life such that many gathered today to celebrate it. Who among us could expect the same?