Thursday, August 3, 2017

Remembrance of my sister-in-law

Yesterday was my sister-in-law's memorial service and my niece asked me to give the eulogy.  This is the third time I've given one and it never gets any easier.  One of the stories that came to mind about Dottie was when she and my brother lived in Ventura, California with their two children.  The kids were about 5 and 7 at the time.  Well, they had a beautiful orange tree in their backyard but the kids wouldn't eat the oranges because they didn't have any writing on them.  So my sister-in-law took a flashlight and a ladder to the back yard one night and with a magic marker she wrote Sunkist on every orange she could reach!  

She was inventive!

The thing about funerals is they are often a reunion of old friends.  Yesterday was no exception.  I saw old neighbors I haven't seen in probably 15 years.  I saw relatives I haven't seen in years as well.  People always say, "We shouldn't wait until someone dies to get together."  But we seem to do just that.

When you write a eulogy for someone you sit down and really try to think about how to describe them in a way that friends and family will recognize.  When I thought about Dottie the first thing that came to mind was that she was probably the happiest person you could ever meet.  This was in spite of the fact that her mother was a severe alcoholic and when she was born her mother didn't know who the father was so when she saw a street sign she decided to use it as her child's last name.  So Culver Street became part of Dorothy Lee's legacy. 

A few years later her mother had two more girls by a different father.  But those little girls went with their father when he decided to leave their mother.  Dottie told me once that she remembered wondering why he didn't take her as well.  But her mother placed her in an orphanage instead.  It was probably unfortunate that her mother returned for her about a year later.

After the orphanage she was shuffled around from couch-to-couch and home-to-home.  She never had anything of her own and when she was older and did get money from working somewhere her mother would take it from her to buy alcohol.   

That was pretty much the theme of  Dorothy Lee Culver's life until she graduated from high school.  

When she was twenty she married my brother.  I was six years old.  I'd like to say that she then lived happily ever after but that wasn't the case.  Infidelity plagued her marriage and they divorced about 10 years later.  She could have become a bitter and angry person.  It would certainly have been justified.  But instead she made a conscious decision to be happy and happy she was!  She was one of those rare individuals that could find joy in the simplest of things.  I guess when you grow up with absolutely nothing but the clothes on your back you learn to appreciate even the smallest of things. 

When she married her second husband he built her a new house in a small town on an acreage.   She had already retired by that time and life was looking good.  It was the first new home she had ever had and it was completely furnished with brand new furniture.  She loved it.  But unfortunately it was again short lived. One summer a huge Oklahoma grass fire spread across the state burning thousands of acres of land and hundreds of homes.  Hers was one of the casualties.  She lost everything she owned.   

I called her the day after the fire and the first thing she said with a laugh was, "Well, I'm glad it burned before I washed the windows!"  

She always found the bright side!

Eventually they replaced the house with a single wide mobile home.  Her husband built a wrap around porch for her and even when it snowed he would shovel a path to her chair and  she would sit outside and look at the sky while taking cloud pictures with her Kindle. 

It really didn't take much to make her happy! 

Since her life was often hard it was with God's grace that her 
her passing was a peaceful whisper.  Though we will miss her dearly I know her memory and laughter will ring on.


Olga Hebert said...

I am so sorry for your loss. And what an example Dottie was for us all.

Anonymous said...

She was blessed to have you in her life also. Just think of the joy she is having in her heavenly home now. Thanks so much for sharing this precious lady's legacy with us. Every time there is another tornado in Oklahoma, I pray it isn't touching you or your family members. - plynjyn

Florence said...

What a lovely tribute to an amazing woman!!

Good to see you blogging again.