As you get older, death becomes more and more a part of life.
That does not make it any easier to say goodbye to friends and family, even though, as Christians, we know we’ll meet again.
In the here and now, we hurt. In the hereafter, we won’t, but in the intervening weeks and years from one point to the next, we have to find a way to make it through.
This year has been difficult. The deaths of three close family members have shaken my family: a niece in January, a nephew by marriage only a few days earlier, and a nephew in June. Each was relatively young. My niece was 62; my nephew by marriage was 53; my nephew was 56.
Dear friends have passed away, as well.
Earl Adams, known as “Papaw” to both his blood kin and kin by choice, died in March. “Uncle Gene” LeQuire died in June. And on July 20, my dear friend Ken Garland passed from this life to the next after battling cancer. Each had ties to Cades Cove, and that’s how we first became acquainted, through the Cades Cove Preservation Association.
Most people in Blount County who have family ties going back multiple generations will find a connection, either by blood or marriage. As I’ve delved into genealogy and history, I’ve discovered many of these ties. With Papaw Adams, the tie is through his late wife, Inez McCauley Adams, who died a few years ago. Granny’s mother was an Abbott from the Cove, a blood relation to my late brothers-in-law, Harold Abbott and L.C. Tipton — they were cousins.
Granny and Papaw Adams took me under their wings as an adopted grandchild, just as they did so many others. I was privileged to have that honor, privileged to share so many conversations with them, privileged to interview them through the years for stories for The Daily Times. Their wealth of knowledge and the research they did, especially concerning the Cove, were always available to those of us seeking the past. Their friendship was truly a blessing.
Uncle Gene is another “kin by marriage” as well as a dear friend. When we discovered that my Aunt Johnnie had been married to his uncle, Ollie Thompson, I immediately gave him the title of “uncle.” His mother, Ruby Thompson LeQuire, was Uncle Ollie’s sister.
This connection may seem odd, given the difference in our ages — he was 90 when he passed, and I am the same age as his daughters. The reason is because I was the youngest child in my family, an “oops,” as they say, since my brother was 20 and already married at the time I was born; and my father was the youngest of eight children in his family. Aunt Johnnie was his oldest sister, born 11 years before him.
Uncle Gene would tell me stories about Uncle Ollie and Aunt Johnnie and shared a few photos with me. I loved hearing him talk. He was a musician and had such a lyrical voice, filled with the music of the mountains even in his everyday speech.
Ken and I didn’t nail down our connection in a family tree sense, but everyone from the Cove has a family connection and I have no doubt I’ll be tying him in through marriage eventually. There are already some Garlands in the files, all by marriage to one blood relative or another.
What Ken and I had in common was our interest in history and its preservation and also our shared profession. Ken was a journalist with several newspapers during his 35-year career, including many years ago at The Daily Times before going on to work at other newspapers elsewhere. He retired from the Knoxville News Sentinel in 2004, and we got to know each other through his work with the Cades Cove Preservation Association after that. As president and public relations officer over several terms, he was the contact person for stories I’d do to let readers know about CCPA’s events. Ken was an accomplished writer and a photographer, and he knew what needed to go into a story.
He made my work so easy! Chatting with him, and other Cades Cove “cousins,” as we call ourselves, on the back porch of the Cades Cove Museum at the Thompson-Brown House was more like a family reunion than an interview. And of course, we’d talk about the newspaper industry and how things are changing.
Losing family and friends is never easy. But as long as we have precious memories such as these I’ve shared today, they will always be with us … until we meet again.