Good bye, Baba.

Friends, this week we are taking a break from the Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon tribute. There will be no urban design talk this week.  While I was in Iowa last week I received the news that Baba had passed away. I made my back to the scenic city, corralled the family and we made our way down to God’s Own Alabama for the funeral. Baba and I were quite close. I am very sad, but she lived a long, full life and she’s with me every day.

This week instead of writing the blog, I wrote a brief eulogy that I delivered graveside. This is yet another occasion where my deficiency as a writer is on display. I simply can’t find the words to adequately express my feelings about the woman, or the impact that she had on my life. During the service, I wasn’t able to hold it together as well as I would have liked. Baba, however, knew all about my tendency to get emotional, so I doubt she would have minded. This is what I tried to deliver at the service:

Some time ago when Baba’s hearing started to fail Mom took her to see the doctor. The following exchange occurred:

Doctor: “Ms. Britton, we need to get you some hearing aids.”
Baba: “Hearing aids? Why do I have to wear hearing aids?” 

Doctor: “Because you’ve only got about 30% of your hearing left”

Baba: “That’s fine, I only want to listen about 30% of what people say anyway.”

In honor of her respect for brevity, I will try to be succinct.

To fully explain Baba’s impact on my life would take a full 39 years. She manifests herself in my most fundamental nature. Some of the great joys in my life have to do with learning new skills and figuring out how to do things. This is a direct result of what Baba taught me – she taught me to sew, to cook, to use tools, to can fruits and vegetables, and to garden. The things that she taught me are in many ways my defining characteristics. She is now gone and I will miss her. But while she is not longer with me physically, she is alive every time I use my sewing machine, every time I cook, every time I’m in the garden, every time I give my boys a kiss.

But beyond skills, she taught me something greater about life through her own example. After Big Luke passed when I was two, Baba quite literally devoted the rest of her life to providing for the well-being of Andrew, Luke and me. Her time, her resources – both financial and emotional, her thoughts and her focus were all spent to ensure that we were taken care of physically and emotionally.

Jesus set the example for how we should live our lives. He lived a life characterized by unconditional love, selflessness and sacrifice in the service of others. In my life I have not encountered another soul who more ably and consistently personified those characteristics than Baba. There is no higher praise I can give another human being.

Rest in peace Baba, I love you.

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