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Last Walk down the Lane

Dear Papa, (My Great-Grandfather, Mr. Alec P. Vaughan, )

I decided to take your jeans on their last walk down "The Lane." That beautiful path that begins in the Mule Lot, and goes past the barn, the shed, the cotton house, the syrup shed, the shop, the added sheds, the pump, and down "The Lane" we strolled all those years ago.

Your jeans and shoes walked this lane over 50 years ago now. I was around ten years old the last time I saw you. I remember the day you passed peacefully in your bedroom in the old house in 1972. But I remember other days, before that, when we walked the lane together. You, teaching us how to prime the old pump so that we could fill the old clawfoot tub for watering the cows, us, scrambling behind the barrier because we were afraid of the cows.

Your daughter, Urbanna, lived here alone till just a few years before her death in 2010. She loved the place. Cherished it, really, though, as a single woman most of her life, she couldn't manage it and work full time as she did. But this plot of land was sacred to her and I totally understand that these days.

Somehow, in the providence of God, I got to be the one to clean out, clean up, move out, find out, and discover all the ways it really is a holy ground.

In the past 13 years I have gotten to know the old house, and most of the grounds. I found the tables you built by hand, the quilts your daughters sewed, the basin where you shaved... and even your jeans that you mended by hand. I wear them now as I walk this lane remembering why I am having such a hard time walking away. I know where the rarest of azaleas grow, where the prettiest Pink Perfection blooms, where the hidden treasures can still be found, and where Urbanna kept every flower arrangement from your funeral. She loved you so. She did everything she could to keep your memory alive. Perhaps that is why at 61 I am crying as though you have just passed away.

When I first began this journey over ten years ago, I remember late at night scrubbing floors in your old home and very clearly sensing a "cloud of witnesses" and I hoped I made you proud. When I made your bed, and hung up your suit and invited the family in for a reunion I hoped that they would still feel you there. For you and your daughters and sons have been so real and so near to my heart. As I read the letters and saw the pictures - thousands of them, I was always reminded of the love of our family and how rare and beautiful it has always been.

Oh Papa, the task has been large, and I have felt very small. Your legacy is great, though you were a humble man. I have left very little there that will remind the new tenants that greatness happened there. That generations were born and went out into the world, and they all began with walking down this lane.

It may be my last walk, but not my last tears. It may be my last haul of pictures and furniture, but it will not be the last thing I carry onward. I carry you. You are in me as I breathe the sweet magnolia air, hear the creaking barn wood, feel the wind across the field, and as I run my hand along the wooden tables that you made. You didn't just make the the furniture and the house, somehow you made me. Thank you, Papa. Thank you. I got to love you all over again.

I will be looking back over my shoulder for a long, long time.


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