An Inspiration For All
I met Miss Gracie (that’s what we called her – those who were not kin to her, just friends) back in April when I started singing at The Junction with the Footloose Band. I could tell there was something special about this sweet lady the first time I heard her talk…and then watched her dance. And, ohhhh…how she loved to dance!
Everyone told me she was sick and didn’t have long to live. But she was always upbeat, happy, cutting up…just a joy to be around. She was truly (just like the song says) living everyday like she was dying.
A couple of weeks ago, Miss Gracie came to The Junction. She had told Gloria Taylor (Don & Gloria Taylor own The Junction and Miss Gracie was a dear friend, as she was to so many) that she wanted to speak to the crowd. She took the microphone, stepped out onto the dance floor…and gave an inspirational speech to end all speeches.
The crowd (of a 100 or more that night) sat quietly as Miss Gracie told everyone how she was doing. But her message was that she didn’t have long to live. But she didn’t want tears…she wanted joy! She told everyone that if they hadn’t found God in their lives, she urged them to do so. She asked them to be content, to live, to let live, to spread their wings…and live life to its fullest. “Because you never know”, I recall her saying, “when God will call you home.” She not only spoke from her heart that night…she spoke from her soul.
A couple of weeks later – on October 11th – God called Miss Gracie home. This past Saturday, I attended (with Joe & Dot Young) the memorial in her honor at Canaan Baptist Church on Lehmberg Road. I sure am glad I attended. I listened and watched as her family spoke to the packed church about their beloved Gracie Howard…a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a sister, a beautiful woman. They used the word ‘beautiful’ to describe Miss Gracie many times…and she was that, inside and out.
I listened as her granddaughter, Lacey Gartman Stokes, asked all of Miss Gracie’s beautiful family to stand as she called their names one by one. Sniffles could be heard throughout the church as nearly everyone had to fight back tears and remain strong and upbeat for Miss Gracie. I listened as Lacey told everyone how much Miss Gracie loved her family.
I listened (and chuckled with everyone else) as Bro. Jim Ray and Bro. Bill Webb spoke of Miss Gracie. How she loved to hug everyone. How she was always talking…and talking…and talking. Even though they made light of that fact, in reality, when Miss Gracie spoke, everyone listened…just as they did that night at The Junction.
(Gloria Taylor shared this story with me just today. RW) Last October, Ricky Rickard, who had been a longtime drummer in local bands, spending much of the remainder of his too-short life at The Junction, passed away of leukemia. A couple of months earlier, Ricky was in the hospital battling the awful disease. Miss Gracie visited Ricky in the hospital. That day, Ricky told Miss Gracie that he wanted her to go to the Junction that night and play a song for him…but he meant literally play a song for him…on the drums! Miss Gracie wasn’t a drummer, but she granted Ricky’s request. She played a song on the drums that night. Luckily, Footloose rhythm guitarist Joe Young captured the moment in a photo.
As you remember Miss Gracie, don’t cry for her. She would much rather you smile, be content…and remember the good times of her 72-year life. I know that’s what I’m going to do. I believe she would be proud of that. That’s how she wanted to be remembered…smiling ever more.