Pat (a.k.a. Muff) was such a sweet and beautiful lady. At 85, she was an adorable, but feisty, Facebook-friendly gal who loved a good time and never knew when to slow down. For many years, my trips to the lake would include asking Pat to dog-sit my little Marley while we recreated on the boat or entertained guests. Her boundless energy was infectious and her sharp memory never skipped a beat, always engaging the latest in politics and gossip. She loved Marley’s companionship and would always offer for her to spend the night with Wilson, her beloved poodle. I would always giggle at the thoughts of “Pat’s Poochie Pajama Parties’ and what chaos could ensue during the evening. One of my joys was making little sweet treats for her, letting her know how much I appreciated the giving spirit she had in her heart. She always had a kind word and left me smiling.

I received a heartbreaking email that said Pat had passed. As with all of our elderly loved ones, we always have a slight fear for such a call or email. But to be honest, this note stopped me in my tracks and my heart immediately sank.

My Grandmother, Charlotte (a.k.a. Mama Spivey) was just like Pat. Always full of energy, Mama Spivey was an amazing woman who lived next door to me my entire childhood.  Mama Spivey was a true southern woman and only believed in the best-of-the-best for those she loved and respected. Every day with Mama Spivey was an adventure.  From her mile-high-Sunday-afternoon-coconut-cake to the sweet tea, she was a beautiful master in the kitchen and was always cooking for her extended family, and particularly for those in need.  Cakes, pies, candies, homemade jams and jelly’s, Mama Spivey’s gifts were deeply appreciated by friends and family members in need of a lift. And even as she fell ill herself, she continued to serve as she felt she was called to do. She passed when I was only 17. But in those short years, just like Pat, I learned the value of loving and giving.

Maya Angelou gracefully stated, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”   There’s so much to be learned by this generation. Perhaps one common denominator is the rare, unconditional love of a giving heart that’s always full and boundless. In today’s world of emails, texts, hurry-up answers, and instant gratification, we sometimes lose track of what is most important: time and love from others who care about us. People are placed in our lives for a purpose. The blessing of genuine love is very rare, but the greatest gift to all who receive it. Sometimes I long for the simple life and the basic, genuine traits of these two ladies. The legacies they leave behind are lessons in purpose and hope for us all. May we all pause for a moment to appreciate and honor what we have been given to enjoy – someone else’s treasures of time and love. May we all continue their legacies by sharing our own time and love with others around us, especially those in need of a kind word, a simple hug, or a warm peach pie.

May your own loved ones who have passed live within your heart and nudge you toward grace, graciousness, and giving to those within your reach. May we all long to be a little more like them and a lot less about “us”. May we all look at those who love us a little more with honor and be forever grateful for the time we have been given to share with them. Too soon, it will be over. May we work daily to create our own legacy of opening our hearts to give freely.

When our time on earth is done, we will leave material things behind. Our lifetime accumulation of “stuff” will matter to but a few, but our legacy of loving and devoting time to others will be remembered by all whose feelings were lifted by our presence. The blessings of Pat Paris and Charlotte Spivey live in us all today as we warmly recall their smiles, still feel their hugs, hear their kind words of encouragement, and bask in their unconditional, everlasting love. Today, we honor their hearts of gold. Heaven must have needed a smile. And maybe a few warm cookies, a good round of Smithville gossip and a big ole glass of fresh-brewed strong, southern sweet tea.