Anne Shirk, Part II

The family memorial for my friend Anne, who died two weeks ago, was held yesterday in the back yard of her house. Anne was a fortunate woman; she and her husband had purchased their home many decades ago, and chosen it partly because it backed onto protected county land that had a creek and a swimming hole.

Anne was a one-man woman. She met her husband-to-be in 1955 when she was doing graduate work in Germany. They married shortly thereafter. Paul Raymond, a self-described Okie, died in 1974; Anne never remarried after his death

Anne raised her children in this home, and then her grandchildren. She also became the unofficial caretakers of neighborhood kids who got into trouble or whose lives at their own homes were treacherous. The kids did their homework at her house, ate there and spent the night. She was their advocate and defender.

Yesterday’s service was lovely. It was a sunny day in McLean, Virginia. Her daughter Kristin is an accomplished classical violinist, and a quartet played some of Anne’s favorite music. A few stories were told; tears and smiles shed and exchanged. Visitors toured the home, Anne’s personal museum of an existence well and fully lived.

I said a few words and realized the futility of trying to encapsulate a life within an anecdote or two. There were too many stories and not enough time.

Anne, as I’ve written before, was a grande dame, which does not translate to a grand dame. It means she had an innate elegance that defied life’s demands, including the health issues she struggled with in her last decade. Had she been British, one might have said she was the very portrayal of a stiff upper lip. But she wasn’t British, she was a Californian through and through, and I don’t know what the term is for California steadfastness.

The surgeries she underwent shortly before her death hit her hard. The anesthesia caused long-term confusion, and during one visit she looked at me and said, “I’m going to pay you! Of course I’m going to pay you.” I’m not sure what she was referring to, or whether she thought I might be someone else. She was far more lucid another time, and worried about filing her taxes.

Even in her last days in her hospital bed, once the anesthetic had fully worn off, and, I suspect, she knew the end was near, she emanated a sense of serenity I can admit I envy.

A person ceases to exist when his or her name is mentioned one last time.

I hope Anne is spoken of often.

About epiphanettes

Writer, songcrafter, possibly the best French pedal steel guitarist in Virginia.
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