My Aunt Alice, who was one of my mother’s sisters, died on August 12, 2017, at the age of 96 ½ (when you’re that old, you count the halves!). Although she was not the youngest, she outlived eight sisters, three brothers, and two beloved husbands. One of the sisters she outlived was my mother.
This picture was taken by Carol Dubay, when she and I took a road trip Ohio to see Aunt Alice, about 10 months before she died. Thank you, Carol, for your road trip companionship and for taking this picture, which I treasure.
For years, my mother and Aunt Alice would take turns calling each other every Sunday morning at 8:00. After my mother died, Aunt Alice wanted me to keep the weekly phone call tradition alive, as did I. I explained to Aunt Alice that the Sunday timing wasn’t convenient for me because of church services. Aunt Alice was living in an assisted living facility by that point, and talk about a social life…..she certainly had one! We finally figured out that a good time for me to call her weekly would be on Saturday mornings at 6:30 a.m. So that’s what I did for several years.
At some point, something changed in her assisted living activities, and we switched the time to Friday mornings at 8:30. For more than a few months after her death, I thought of Aunt Alice every Friday morning at 8:30 and that I needed to call her.
The last time I talked with Aunt Alice was the day before she died. For several years, every time I talked with her, I thought, “This may be the last time I get to talk to Aunt Alice.” But in my mind, even thought she had been in Hospice for about 18 months for both COPD and CHF, I never really believed it would be the last time I had to ask Aunt Alice a question about family history or to hear one of her jokes. Perhaps one reason for this is that she had stared death in the face several times. Maybe most importantly was Aunt Alice’s tremendous will to live.
On August 11, 2017, when I called Aunt Alice, she was alert, sharp, conversant with current events and humorous, which were her trademarks. We usually discussed current events, ranging in scope from local to international, the weather, recent meals she had had, and more often than not, she would tell me a joke or a funny story. Aunt Alice would always tell me who had been by to see her, who she had recently talked with and the like. I felt like I kept up with my cousins and Aunt Alice’s step-son and grandchildren in that way. (Aunt Alice had no children, but her second husband had a daughter, whom she adored. Unfortunately, Sandy passed away of ALS in early 2013. Aunt Alice considered Sandy’s children and grandchildren as her very own, and was very proud of them and their accomplishments. I believe the feeling was mutual.)
On August 11, after discussing the local weather, Aunt Alice told me she was concerned about what the North Koreans were up to; this was a valid concern, since that country was in the news. As I recall, she had had orange juice, sausage, biscuits and gravy and scrambled eggs for breakfast. She was hoping to be able to get outside to view what she could of the upcoming solar eclipse, which was August 21; Ohio was not the optimal place to witness the eclipse. Even though we had already discussed the weather, she wisely mentioned it was “just too early to see what the weather will be on the 21st.” Aunt Alice reminded me that her mother had recollected a time in the 1880’s or 1890’s when the day grew so dark that the chickens started roosting in the middle of the day.
Aunt Alice’s family gathered a couple of weeks after her death to remember her life. This is the eulogy I read in her honor.
Alice Moore Haines Bailey brightened the lives of all of us gathered here this afternoon to remember her.
One of the gifts she gave us was her love of laughter. We are told in Proverbs 17:22 that a cheerful heart is good medicine. Aunt Alice certainly lived that verse out in her daily life. Anyone who knew her knew that she loved to laugh and she loved to make others laugh. She loved good jokes. Several weeks before the last presidential election, she told me a joke. I’m going to tell it to the best of my recollection. It certainly is not my intention to offend anyone here today, and let me apologize in advance if I do.
When Tip O’Neill was Speaker of the House, a little boy was selling newborn puppies, puppies that had not yet opened their eyes. The child saw Speaker O’Neill and asked, “Mr. Speaker, would you like to buy a Democratic puppy?” The Speaker didn’t have a need for a puppy, so the child moved on. Several weeks later, the lad still hadn’t sold all the puppies. He again saw Speaker O’Neill, and asked, “Mr. Speaker, would you like to buy a Republican puppy?” The Speaker said, “I thought they were Democratic puppies.” The boy said, “They were, but now their eyes have been opened.”
As I was doing some research a while back, I happened upon the following quote. I think it’s appropriate for me to share today. They’re words Aunt Alice would say, I feel sure. The words were written by Regina Britt and appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer; I am paraphrasing just a bit. “My mind is at ease, my soul is at rest. Remembering all of you and how truly I was blessed.”
Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift, and Aunt Alice was a wonderful gift to all of us who had the privilege of knowing her. Thank You, dear Father God, for giving us the gift of Aunt Alice.
Certainly, Alice Moore Haines Bailey lived a life of great significance.
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Copyright August 7, 2020 by Rebecca Henderson