As we embark on another wonderful year full of conversations and stories of creative doers, makers and innovators here in our community, it was important to us that we first pause to remember one of the best that we lost… the lovely, genuine Lamar Taft.
The moment I stepped out of the car I could feel her spirit. It is calm, comforting, easy. It was a frigid Monday morning but the sun was shining bright. I was at her farmhouse out in Bethania to spend some time with her greatest love, her husband Charles. It has been almost two months since she passed and we spent the morning talking about their farm, their life together and her legacy.
That morning Charles showed me a suitcase full of letters that friends and family had sent to her and then to him after she had passed. The return addresses came from far and wide; it was a beautiful sight. He was kind enough to read me a few and it was touching to hear the memories that others had shared. Some only knew her for a short season of her life, just like me, but regardless of the extent of their relationships, it seemed that all talked of how much she had impacted their lives. What I admired was that those memories were not filled with grand gestures. In the end, it was her simple acts of kindness that mattered most.
With that, to say that I am honored to have known her is an understatement. Lamar came into my life a few years ago by way of Harrison. She was, without doubt, one of the loveliest souls to ever touch my life.
From the home she created, to her work in the community, to the lovely dining tables she set, to the way she made people feel, she lived life like it was an art. She was a southern woman with a worldly outlook. She was a wife, sister, mother, daughter, grandmother and a phenomenal friend. She was kind. She was brave.
She had a radiant smile and flashed it often. She could talk about pretty much anything. She carried herself with an undeniable grace. She was one of those remarkable people who knew how to make you feel special and important. She inspired you to become a better person – to be more connected, engaged and curious.
Within moments of meeting Lamar for the first time she had loads of questions for me, each asked with a warm smile. Looking back she was probably scanning my answers in hopes of making a point of connection that she could build upon to make me feel comfortable. That was her way; she always made you feel at ease. And when thinking of Lamar it was that curiosity of hers that I admired most. It was genuine and she always seemed eager to learn something new from everyone who crossed her path. Her curiosity made me feel more comfortable owning my own. She taught me it is a beautiful thing to be curious about life and to never be shy about asking honest questions.
One thing I will remember fondly and appreciate so much was her immediate interest in us. She knew of our love of hosting dinners on the land and of our experiences in Vermont. Both she and Charles believed in our mission to bring those experiences here to our hometown and without hesitation were quick to help support us as best they could.
They did so by opening up their home one autumn evening to host our first farm-to-fork dinner back in Winston-Salem. It was during the planning of that dinner that I was able to witness her and Charles’ dynamic as a couple. That was also the first time I saw distinct commonalities between someone else’s relationship and our own. Sometimes I think we were brought together so Harrison and I could see how beautiful a marriage can be when you respect and celebrate your differences instead of viewing them as faults. I consider it one of the most meaningful lessons I have learned in my married life.
And that’s the thing about our lives here on Earth. In the end, what lingers on are those simple moments when we take the time to really connect with one another and do so with interest and kindness. Be it our spouses, partners, families, children, friends, or neighbors…what matters most in these precious days is how we make one another feel.
Even in her final weeks she had asked to see us and to spend time with our son. It happened to be his first birthday. That night there was no discussion of how she felt or how she was. We knew. She preferred to talk of our future, her family’s future and how she hoped our lives will continue to stay connected long after she was gone. There was also ice cream. It was my son’s first taste and I’m so glad it was with her.
I left that evening filled with overwhelming gratitude; so grateful that she took interest in us and welcomed us into her life. I know that there are so many others that feel that same way too. A few weeks later her memorial was attended by hundreds. Months earlier, knowing her fate, she took upon the burden of planning the service herself. It was filled with joyful songs, warm memories, her favorite poems and the sharing of Eucharist. I couldn’t help but smile knowing that she planned her service as a celebration of God and with gratitude for our lives together.
Like for many who knew her, Lamar was an example of how I want to live my life and the legacy I can only aspire to one day leave. And it is in her memory that I choose to start each day with a grateful heart and a hunger to make a personal impact on the lives of those we meet and know.
And with that I leave you with a philosophy on life of sorts shared in a note after her passing… originally penned by Charles M. Schultz.
You don’t actually have to take the quiz. Just read this straight through and you’ll get the point.
Here’s the first quiz:
- Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
- Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
- Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
- Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
- Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
- Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.
How did you do?
The facts are, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:
- List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
- Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
- Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
- Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
- Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
- Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.
The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.
~ with love & gratitude,