Yesterday was truly a Sunny Monday. A bright day , yet filled with hard and bittersweet realities. I discovered that one of my oldest and dearest friends passed away from the side effects of cancer on February 5th.
My first remembrance of Lee was when I was 17. I was innocent and an animal lover. My only job has been with the Richmond SPCA in their youth training program. Lee was on the board of directors for The Julia Wagner Shelter in Warren County, Virginia. We had moved to Warren in 1971.
She was a young, beautiful and flamboyant woman. In the midst of my interview for a position with the now Humane Society of Warren County, Lee basically reminded everyone of their purpose. She said their “Great Leader, Miss Julia Wagner,” Had been young, close to my age when she began working to rescue her beloved animals. I was hired as a follow up case worker.
Lee always saw possibilities where no one else could. She was always positive, even when she sometimes felt uncertain. She would walk into any situation as if she was in command of the helm of a ship. It wasn’t so surprising considering that one of her ancestors was Jean La Feete’ that notorious pirate of old.
I would say she had 4 passions in life. Conservative Politics, US History, (especially “The War Between the Sates”) , animals, and Her beloved horses.
I really got to know Lee when we taught together. She was a wonderful teacher. She loved her students and she stood for no nonsense. Having said that, she was also gentle, kind and merciful and fair. She held everyone to the same standard she did herself, always taking into consideration their circumstances. Lee to my knowledge never treated anyone, no matter how poor or how rich with anything less than dignity.
Lee was always more than generous, sometimes a little intimidating, and she had a way of making anyone she met feel important and valued. I suppose many people would say those are leadership qualities.
Because of that sometimes people tried to take Lee for grant it or take advantage of her. Woe to anyone who tried to force their way in. She had boundaries that she let no one cross over. They were the same boundaries that allowed her to be one of the most gracious of hostesses, with flawless social skills that still allowed her to be herself in every situation.
The people who didn’t like Lee where usually people who tried to manipulate her. She would have none of it.
Lee was an intensely private person. She was one who had a strong testimony of faith and a life most people only dream of.
Few people were allowed into the inner circle. Some of us, she shared the stories of her life, were told them in such a fashion as though we were reliving a great adventure. And it was such an adventure! Inevitably someone from her past would show up, and there she would be introducing us to someone bigger than life who had in some way influenced modern history.
I never doubted anything she told me about things she did or people she met, because for those of us closest to her, there were photographs and mementoes and a cool drink by the fireplace while she opened up and shared those amazing things that were deep in her memory and her heart.
Sometimes things didn’t turn out as she had hoped in her life. Yet, she was always bold and courageous. She was always determined once she knew something must be done and had decided on the right course. She always did her best. Always tried to do the right and righteous thing. Never compromised what she believed in.
If the desired outcome was not achieved, Lee would say: “Such is Life”. And that would be the end to it. She would do as the Bible said in these instances: “Leaving the past behind, always moving toward the higher calling”
I will never forget the day she and Jim ran off to get married. She had set me up on a blind date. As we were leaving for dinner, in drove Lee and Jim. They were giggling like teens. Oh so very happy. She didn’t tell me until Monday that they had driven up to Maryland to elope. It was vintage Lee.
I wasn’t really surprised because she had told me prior, that she thought Jim was “the Love of her Life” She has been referring to him that way ever since. Personally, I thought it was wonderful. Jim and Lee were so right for each other. She called it love at first sight.
They moved to Texas when Jim retired. It was a wonderful move for them. Lee hated snow. Jim and I remembered it yesterday when we talked on the phone. “ Yes, she would go into a panic a the mere mention of it.” He said.
As I am sitting here writing this, I find it so hard to comprehend her not being there. Maybe someday I will get back to Del Rio and meet all the people, who had in recent years become so important to Lee and Jim. Especially her assistant and the young Vet that Lee considered to be “like daughters to me”.
This morning the picture I have in my head is of Lee surrounded by Rebel her black lab, Dante her thoroughbred Stallion, Purn her little yellow cat, and myriads of other animals, friends and family members that she has been reunited with.
The one awesome picture I have in my imagination is of the old groom from her childhood barn who kept telling her of Jesus. Lee told me this story of how all the children in the barn would make fun of him. But he just kept on loving them; He just kept on telling her of how much Jesus loved her. I can imagine him meeting her and taking her hand and leading her before the throne of God, and saying “ Here she is Jesus, this is the little one I’ve been telling you about.”
And so it begins, this new life of no more sorrows, no more pain, no more tears, reunited with all who love God and who believed Jesus. I expect there have been some welcome surprises. and many questions she always wondered the answers to. It gives me great joy to know that Lee is sitting up there with the mutitude of saints looking down upon us and cheering us on as we walk steadily into our future where we will be reunited with all who love him.
He who begain a good work in Lee was more than faithful to complete it in her. Thankyou Dear God for the wonderful friend that Lee was and for the great legacy of generosity and love she left behind. Thank you for the blessing of her life, In Jesus name.