Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rebecca Keith Finney

It is usually my habit to write a personal eulogy for the beings in my life who have passed on. From old cats to old men, they all receive a fairly quick treatment.

Rebecca Keith Finney died November 12, 2007. Although I was born on her birthday, am named for her and lived with her and my grandmother, Edna Finney, for the first two or three years of my life, I haven't been able to bring myself to describe her life or her death. Rebecca Finney was a very important person. The facts of her life -- born in Alabama, resident of Akron, OH most of her adult life and member of Greater Bethel Baptist Church since 1955 -- seem so ordinary, but its important for her to remembered for the amazing woman she was. So I will try...

First of all, her final illness was precipitated by a fall, the fall happened when she got up to pee, but more likely, when she got up to sit on her porta-potty for a 3 a.m. smoke. She was eighty three years old, quite debilitated by arthritis but could still manuever a butt and a match. Aunt Becky loved to smoke. After months in residence at a rehab, where she would serenely not smoke, she would go home and quite happily light up.

It is this serenity, her fierce determination to regain physical health and flexibility, her unwavering belief that she would eventually get up and, as in the bible story, not only walk, but clean her house, that stubbornness that demanded matches she could light as well as full compliance with her living will in those final days, that made her my most special aunt.

More importantly, she was a boddhisattva. That is a Buddhist saint who hangs around to address the suffering of all beings. In her case, all beings were any young'n who passed close enough to her to get caught in her orbit. She used many lures -- she always had a great car, lots of food and a big laugh at anything we did. As one young man at her funeral stated from the confinement of his wheel chair, " she tried to save all us neighborhood boys, and we are all still here and sound of mind, so she succeeded."

So in the end a fierce Buddhist-colored-church-lady-saint, member of usher board #1, who can't get up to clean her house can and did make sure we -- children too much of a burden, for a time, for our mothers; rough neighborhood boys; colored gay Baptist church divas losing their partners to AIDS ("Love is just love and that comes from God"); lesbian nieces at loose ends ("When are you going to settle down with a nice girl?") -- are of sound mind at her passing.

I'm not sure you can ask much more of a life.

Bye Auntie Becks.

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