“Death is not an ending, but a symbol of movement along the path upon which we are all traveling… The spirit can never be lost. We have been and always will be a part of each other.” -John Denver
Leah Nan Howe (or “Mamaw,” to many of us) had a spirit like none other…
She had a passion for teaching, a love affair with angel food cake, and a Southern accent sweet enough to make a Yankee say “y’all.” She was an avid Spurs fan (the “David Robinson Spurs,” that is), could put Café du Monde’s beignets to shame, and knew “the Good Book” like the back of her hand.
Growing up in Cushing, Texas, Nan preferred climbing trees and catching tadpoles to hosting tea parties for guest lists of dolls. And her love for the outdoors (which also included swimming with her siblings and fishing with her Daddy) extended well into her adulthood, as she then spent many years camping across the country in a ’59 Airstream with her own family (and ultimately instilling this same gratitude for nature in generations to come).
When it came to her love life, Nan was what you might call “one of the lucky ones”—as in, her sea was home to none other than a (very handsome) fish named Emmett. Together, they raised four beautiful children and enjoyed nearly six decades of marital bliss. He was, in Nan’s words, “the first and only” love of her life.
Happiness for Nan came in many other forms. Among them: time spent with/spoiling her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, numerous trips to her family beach house, church every Sunday, all-things-Christmas, any book by Francine Rivers, and a very dear (and lifelong) friendship with the Pitre family.
Without a doubt, Nan’s was a journey of love, laughter, and wonderful experiences—not to mention a journey of impact. In her 89 years, Nan touched the lives of so many people in so many ways, and oftentimes with nothing more than the mere incandescence of her presence.
Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle or as though everything is.” For those of us who knew Nan, her choice here is an obvious one.
And miraculous indeed is the beautiful spirit with which she now leaves us—the beautiful spirit that now lives on in her children and grandchildren: Melanie (husband Wayne; children Jacob, Seth, and Haylie), Kristie (husband Tony; children David and Taylor), and Timothy (wife Julie; children Tucker, Savannah, and Noah); her brother Bill; six great-grandchildren; and an extended family of relatives and friends alike (too numerous to list but by no means forgotten)—all of whom were blessed to not only have experienced the endless love and warmth that Nan had to offer, but also to have learned a thing or two from her along the way. For instance:
It is, in fact, possible to go an entire lifetime without losing a single game of Phase-10.
You can never watch “Lonesome Dove” too many times.
Rubber doll heads make excellent baseballs.
Salty air by the beach is good for the soul (and even better with a weenie roast and a crawfish boil).
If the moon don’t turn ya on, somethin’ just might be wrong with ya.
When choosing a summertime campsite, always consider its walking distance to the nearest ice cream store.
If you’re thinking about smoking a grapevine, don’t.
When in need of lawn care services, be sure to avoid requests like “mow-jobs and blow-jobs.”
“Hey, sho͝og” and “over yonder,” however, can be used in just about any sentence imaginable.
Should the time ever come when your boots just ain't for walkin’ anymore (and thus your popularity with children suddenly becomes attributable to the tennis balls attached to the feet of your walker), go and find yourself some radical alternative transportation—like a golf cart or a UTV, for example—because yes, there will always be roads left for you to explore, and with the right vehicle, these “roads” can be anywhere…
Unconditional love is praying for each person in the family—one by one, every night (and I mean every night), for years and years.
And finally: Smiles are contagious, even after you’re gone…
By all means, Nan’s smile will be sorely missed, but for those of us who’ve taken her lessons (and love) to heart, it will continue to shine—beautifully and infectiously—as we imagine her dancing around (on two perfectly healthy knees) with her beloved husband, their eldest son Scott, and her good friend Jesus…
As Nan would say: “Behave yourselves, be happy, and don’t ever forget that I love you all the muches in the world!”
“Death is not the end, but the beginning of a new life. It is the door between two lives; one is left behind, one is waiting ahead… It is the transfer of the soul from one body to the body of the whole universe. It is a ‘coming back home’—a reminder that everything returns to its original source. And for those who have lived their lives beautifully—for those who have loved and danced andcelebrated—death is beautiful, as well… It is not the end; it is the very crescendo, the culmination, the ultimate blossoming of life.” -Osho
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