The sweetest ache

I miss Betty.

Some of you who have been around the ‘Bloomr for awhile knew Betty, and many more of you know of her.

Like all of my favorite women, Betty was a study in contradictions: she was tough, tender, stoic, ever-hopeful, stubborn, adaptable, brash, shy, opinionated, open minded, completely realistic, and full of faith. She was such a loyal friend. Betty had her eyes wide open about the human condition, but luckily for me, she put on grace-colored glasses for the people she loved.

I miss her big goofy grin and her loud laugh. I miss her fussing at Russ about giving away too many CDs and keeping his cases so messy when she worked his table– and I especially miss how mad she got when she thought he had been slighted in any way! I miss her unflagging enthusiasm, unbelievable energy,  and unfailing support. I miss her common sense and wisdom. I miss those dang personality trait profiles she quoted while she busily diagnosed everybody around her at the drop of a hat– and was usually dead on! I miss how much she loved my husband, my children, Momma Lloyd, LindaB, and so many other dear friends. I just miss HER, that indescribable essence and life force that was our Betty.

On Labor Day weekend, right before the girls and I headed out to Arkansas (and right after Madi crunched my car fender– how Betty would have LOVED that story!), I climbed into the driver’s seat and then suddenly remembered that I hadn’t gotten the mail in a few days. I asked Charlotte to run to the mailbox for me, and I took the armload of stuff she handed me and unlocked the front door so I could drop it off and sort through it when we got back from Arkansas.

That’s when I saw the package with Betty’s name written in the return address.

I sank down to the floor in my foyer and just stared at it. Betty’s daughter Robyn had told me she had come across a package for me when they sorted through her mom’s things, but I had all but forgotten about it– and here it was, sitting in my lap, getting baptized in the big fat teardrops that were running down my face and dripping off my chin. I just sat there like that for a few minutes.  I almost didn’t open it, I almost left it on the stairs or put it in the car to deal with later. But my curiosity got the best of me, so I bit at a corner of the heavily taped box with my teeth until I could rip the brown paper down in a long straight line and take the package out. There were several small boxes inside wrapped in Christmas paper, and a white envelope with Betty’s handwriting on it fell into my lap. When I opened the card, the first line I read made me laugh out loud– it said, “Now this is NOT a Christmas present, so don’t fuss at me!”

Betty was a giver. There have been several times over the years when something showed up unexpectedly in my mailbox– some thoughtful remembrance like a sweet little statue, or something practical and lovely like a green Vera Bradley makeup bag. You could never really out-give Betty, but I DID get her good a couple of years ago at Christmas time. I found a jeweler on who made a line of sterling silver necklaces and hand-stamped words on them. I chose a round locket that slid open to reveal a secret compartment and had the jeweler engrave a private, personal message from Russ and I inside. I totally surprised her, she never saw it coming, and I think she really loved it– she was uncharacteristically self-conscious when she thanked me, and finally blurted out, “It means more to me than I can tell you.” I smile every time I think of that. I wonder if she was buried in it… but I’ve never had the heart to ask.

I opened Betty’s ‘not-Christmas’ presents to me. They were classic “saw it and it made me think of you” Betty gifts; several things had fat little chickadees on them since she knew how I felt about watching my birdfeeders. I cried, and laughed, and cried– and then I tucked them away, at least for now. The idea of Betty carefully choosing each one of them and getting them all wrapped and ready to send to me so many months ago… well, it kind of undid me. I know that she faced the uncertainty of her condition and the possibility of her death with the same strength and pragmatism that she faced everything else life had ever thrown her way. I can just imagine her getting all of her Christmas shopping completed WAY in advance (like she did for her beloved Momma Lloyd every year), “just in case.” It humbles and honors me to know that I was on her mind– and list– even though I made her promise two years ago that we would not exchange Christmas or birthday presents because it was just too much to try to keep up with. That’s our Betty, sneaking one in one me when she knew I couldn’t talk back!

There was one little gift that I didn’t tuck away. I tried to. But once I held it in my hand and unconsciously lifted it to my face to rub its smoothness against my wet cheek, I couldn’t bear to let go of it. I carried it out to the car with me and put it in that little compartment between the front seats. It’s ridden around like that ever since until a few days ago when I transferred it to a zippered pocket inside of my purse. Now whenever I need to I can slip my hand down and wrap my fingers around it like a touchstone, a talisman. I like to think that maybe some of her, well, ‘Betty-ness’ will rub off on me– magical thinking I know, but if anybody could reach from beyond the grave and give me a shot of courage when I need it, it would be Betty.

She wanted me to know that this is how she sees me, but actually, this last gift from my dear friend describes her to a T. And yes, it makes me ache every time I remember her– but in the sweetest way imaginable.

16 Responses

  1. Nova Scotia Mama

    Oh Tori – this post is so beautifully written…the tears are just running down my cheeks. I know what it is like to miss somebody who was wonderful….what a gift from God when these special people are brought into our lives. I’m sure Betty knew that you loved her dearly.

  2. LindaB

    ((((Tori)))) I know. Me too. I still think about her everyday. And wish I could talk to her one more time. I try to remember what I said to her in the last e-mails we exchanged—–and did I convey to her how much I love and appreciate her? Even though I knew she was having some very serious surgery, I never dreamed she wouldn’t come out of it like she had escaped death so many times before. I can’t bring myself to delete her name from my address book and her cell phone number from my cell phone. Somehow that feels disrespectful……and too final. I can’t leave this place of denial yet. I gathered up all her past e-mails that she sent me and keep them in a safe place and reread them sometimes.

    Betty was a night owl! And I am an insomniac. That worked out well for us. Whenever I had a real knotty problem that I was stressing over, I would E-mail her late at night when she was on her computer and she’d have such good and wise advice…. and she helped me to quit stressing already! I’ve heard her say, “You gotta let go and let God” at least a thousand times, which is really very liberating and comforting. I was always amazed that Betty had real problems too that she didn’t talk about much, but she was ALWAYS ready to help someone else when they had a problem with no thought for herself. And a whole lot of folks looked to her for advice and counsel. A WHOLE LOT OF FOLKS! And she took that role very seriously! That was her gift and she knew how to use it!

    Betty was so generous. When someone she knew on Gaithernet had financial problems, she paid their electric bill or their rent. Or sent them toys for their children at Christmastime. Or bought them tickets to see a Gaither concert ’cause she thought that would encourage and uplift them. She seemed to know what folks needed most. But she never talked about it. I’d hear of it from the people she helped. And I’ve learned of so many things she did for other people since her passing. Her generosity was only surpassed by her thriftiness! She could stretch a dollar like no one else. She was known by her first name in all the thrift shops in Virginia! (I know because she TOOK me to them!) And if you needed to buy a plane ticket, she would go online and find you one for such a ridiculously low price that you would bust out laughing in disbelief!! And that pleased her to no end! And she had a coupon for everything you ever needed! And she’d GIVE it to you! One time, she and MommaLloyd arrived together to Gatlinburg for Family Fest, and she wanted to arrange for a party for G-netters. (Betty ALWAYS wanted to plan a party!) She had found a coupon for chicken wings at a local restaurtant and she went there and picked them up for the party next day…….only it was for a lot more wings than she expected! (I hope I have the details right, if not, Barb can correct me.) And they were laughing the next day about sitting up at 2 o’clock in the morning eating wings ’cause Betty didn’t want them to go to waste!

    Tori, she absolutely LOVED you and your family. Your compelling honesty, talent, humor, and approachableness (Is that a word? Well, it is now.) just appealed to her so much. She couldn’t help herself. And I loved it that she’d ask me to help her with Russ’ product table at a concert because it was so entertaining to hear her fuss about his trunk!!! And then, as politely as she could, she’d fuss about it to HIM! I was holding my breath and pretending to be busy and not hearing this, but he was always gracious and agreeable and she’d think she had solved the problem….until the next time! Then she’d defend him to me, “Ya know, real TRUE gifted artists have a hard time with details like this, and I’m just glad we can help him this way.” LOL And you’re right——she’d always scope out the placement of the other artist’s tables and if she thought Russ’ was not in a good place, well……..someone was going to hear about it! She memorized all the songs on his CD’s in case someone would ask for a certain song. She noticed once that other artists had specially printed bags to put products in that people had bought. So, the next time I worked with her, she had bags all ready! I always wondered why she asked me to help at the product table at a concert selling, taking in money, and keeping track of stuff when I’m the world’s absolute worst bookkeeper/csshier type! (See “Adult Attention Deficit”.) But now I think it was because she always said I needed to get away once in a while from the stress of home, and she was willing to put up with my scatterbrained ways so that I could have a time away…….and get to meet Russ Taff and hear him sing, which should uplift anyone! That HAD to be it!

    I LOVED to make Betty laugh! When I’d say something outrageous and ridiculous to her in an e-mail, she’d always write back that it made her laugh so hard she spewed coffee all over her keyboard. I can’t tell you how much that pleased me. In a way, I had given back to her a little something. I’d think about it all day and picture her laughing that wonderful laugh of hers and it made me happy.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about something lately—–remember when the Apostle Paul was talking about all the faithful saints gone on to Heaven, and then he said in Hebrews 12:1, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,…..”? Do you think this means that people that have died and gone to Heaven can see us down here? I hope so. That is comforting to me. I hope she can still pray for us too.

  3. LindaB

    “Grace colored glasses!” I love that!

  4. LindaB

    “A woman of courage, strength, and grace fits BOTH of you.

  5. rachelbaker

    ((Tori and Linda B)). Such beautiful words about a wonderful lady. I barely knew themema but miss her encouraging words, kind messages and humourous comments around cyberspace. I can only imagine how much of a hole (gulf/chasm) is now left in the lives of you who really knew her well.

    Linda B, I am convinced that is what that verse in Hebrews 12 means. In chapter 11 we are told of those great biblical heroes of faith that have gone before us. They, together with all the saints through the ages, and those we have loved who have reached heaven already, are there surrounding us.

    This verse is given in the context of our journey towards eternity being a ‘race’. In this context we can see that this ‘cloud of witnesses’ are there cheering us on, encouraging us every step of the way.

    Just imagine how great it will be to see their smiling faces when we reach the finish line and receive the prize of eternity with our Father and Saviour with no more pain, hurt or unanswered questions.

  6. LindaB

    Oh yes! That will be great! I want to laugh with Betty again!

    Ya know, Betty always talked disparingly about her looks. She’d say she knew she was plain looking, but she always tried to look “put together”. But I have to tell ya, I’ve heard all my life that “beauty is as beauty does”, and “it’s what’s in someone’s heart that really matters”. But I really understood that concept when I got to know Betty……’cause she was absolutely gorgeous to me! Her beautiful brown eyes looked right into your heart! There was no foolin’ her if you were hurting but trying to put on a happy face!

    She was so enthusiastic about living, so up for anything, so interested in people, so appreciative of every day God gave her. And she didn’t know the meaning of “you just can’t do that, Betty!” HA! That was like vitamins to her!

    I guess there was so many things about her I loved, it’s very hard to give it all up so soon after she left us. I’m sorry for going on and on……but Tori started it! ;) This may be group therapy right here.

  7. Phyllis S

    If Betty on knew how many tears were shed this weekend in Myrtle Beach, she would be on our case but good, yet I know she knows how many laughs we had for her also. My favorite personal moment “with” Betty was when I opened Russ’s trunk, looked down at the MESS that is always there, looked to the heavens and had a private talk with her. I explained that his truck was still a mess, empty boxes, stuff thrown in the bottom, cd’s everywhere, but that I WAS NOT going to clean it out, I was NOT going to take inventory, she was not here and it was just going to stay that way and laughed as tears were streaming down my cheeks. OH YEA, she was with us in MB.

    At the luncheon, Russ gave a heart rending prayer in “Memory of Our Betty”. I cannot tell you what everyone one did, because at that moment Beth and I both lost it. We knew it was coming, but it still is a bitter pill to swallow. Thank you Russ for the beautiful prayer and we so love you.

    MB was about Betty this year and how much we missed her, but it was also about the WONDERFUL LADY that she was, the laughs she brought us and the continued influence she has had and will continue to have on our lives.

    Betty my friend, see you at the House.


  8. Phyllis S


    What a special gift from Betty, and what a wonderful way to receive it. She loved you, Russ and the girls with all her heart.

    Thanks for sharing your family with us.

    I had a special weekend with Mattie this weekend, Love That Girl.

  9. Marys Meanderings

    Betty sounds like she was just the kind of friend I would love to have had! How sweet that her daughter sent that package on to you and you have memories to forever remind you of this special person in your life!

    So glad you came over to my blog! If you would like to get those little pumpkins I can send you a paypal invoice (haven’t figured out how to get that button on each of the sets yet)-
    You just need to email me ( I had tried to find your email address but was not successful) so I will have that in order to send out you little cuties!

    bee blessed

  10. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Oh my, this is not easy. I first read this last night but the lump in my throat made it impossible to say anything on here right then. As mentioned, Betty loved people ….she received oxygen from being with them. And, yes, she was a contradiction in flight. In fact, her son thought her too liberal and her daughter thought her too conservative…..and she was both…maybe even at the same time. But she loved her family…..and she loved us….all of us. And when she was your friend, she didn’t mess around: she was your loyal and faithful friend. I have so many reminders of Betty around my home. When I get into my shower there is that floor mat so that I won’t slip and fall. When I look at my dining room chairs there is that finish that has b een rubbed off (I didn’t say she was perfect…lol) On my kitchen counter next to a wall phone is a large ‘phone book Betty made for me, with extra large names and numbers. When I take clothes from the dryer, I always remember how she struggled to get all of the fuzz out so that I wouldn’t have a house fire. In my bathroom hang pale green towels because Betty decided I needed “that” color instead of the light pink ones I had been eyeing.The list is long.

    Linda, at Family Fest that year Betty and I brought back pietza from that Italian place before the concert that morning….thinking we could warm it after everyone arrived that afternoon. Unfortunately, Heather’s condo’s oven didn’t work and so e served cold pietza and it didn’t bother Betty one bit. She alway rolled with the punches very gracefully. The day before, armed with one of the coupons Betty brought along, we had eaten at that restaurant before putting in our order for the next-day pietza. Well, the coupon said we had to eat $40 worth of food before we could get a $20 discount. This was not an extremely expensive place to eat and, so, we kept olrdering and ordering. At one point I offered to give Betty the $20 but that would have spoiled the whole thing. We ended up taking a busload of chicken wings home with us and put them in our little refrigerator. I never got so tired of eating wings in my life.

    As has been established, Betty was a nightowl….but a first-class one because she made sure we had something to eat during those hours, even if it was only chicken wings for several days straight. (thank goodness for the microwave) In the afternoon around 2:00 it was nap time for our Betty and, so, she would pile into bed….when I thought we shoul be working on the skit I had written before leaving home. But Betty’s creative juices weren’t running when the sun was shining and so, there would be that lump in bed with the covers pulled up over her head….then we wouldn’t have time for dinner anywhere before the evening concert and, so, after the concert when those juices were running hot and heavy, we would work on filling bags of little fun gifts to go with the skit….and we would eat those cotton pickin chicken wings. …at 2:00 in the morning. It was doggone sure we weren’t going to waste one of those wings. I suspect Betty had the strongest stomach in the country. I was afraid to complain for fear of her bringing out another coupon…and all it might involve.

    Betty would come to visit me for a few days two and three times a year….so I got to know the thrift shops around here, too. But, acording to Betty, our’s weren’t anything like her’s in Virginia. I kinda think she had to be right about that. Betty would go to the thrift shops and buy an entire outfit for a wedding….and look terrific. I especially loved her in those hats she picked up here and there. Then she would go with a granddaughter to shop for her at one of the exclusive shops around town. She was one contradiction after another…..

  11. Phyllis S

    Oh, Barb and LindaB,
    Don’t forget Candy’s baby shower in MB. She had Mommalloyd running up and down the isles in the drug store, killing time with Candy so that we could decorate the condo. We laughed so hard at the length of time Mommalloyd spent showing Candy “stuff” she could care less about. Only Betty could devise a scheme that worked that well!

  12. Barbara M. Lloyd

    (thought I’d better send what I had written on before the phone rang again and I lost it. Like Tori and Linda, there is no end to our stories about our Betty)

    And like Phyllis, this weekend at GaitherFest was bittersweet. The concerts were never better and “my” (Betty said that was alright) was absolutely fantastic with his every performance. That sweet fella just keeps getting better all of the time. Madi…our pretty little Madi, is so perfect representing her dad behind that product table, charming the pants (surely I could have thought of a better way to say that) off Russ’ fans who came to the table. Phyllis said she was priceless and right on target. Betty would be so proud….and happy.

    At lunch when Russ asked the blessing and gave a tribute to Betty, tears were flowing….and she was missed so terribly. But I can hear her now saying the fuss shouldn’t be made over her….then she would push someone else into the limelight and try to fade into the background herself. Betty is the one who had a huge saucer-like button made for me that reads “No. 1 Russ Taff fan”….along with 32 “No. 2 Russ Taff fan” buttons. But then she and Linda started immediately scheming ways to steal my button from me….right down to planning on coming to my funeral and reacing in and grabbing that button. I always threatened to reach up and bop them one if they tried. I know Betty is up there helping me hang onto that button becazuse now Phyllis has joined in with Linda to try and get it from me….and, girls, Betty wouldn’t like that. Please consider that carefully now that our Betty is up there talking Jesus’ ear off.

    We had to change the place we stayed the past four years…..there were too many wonderful memories of Betty at the Camelot….but she followed us everywhere we went….most of the time reminding us of our extrordinarily funny and delightful times with her….and occasionally of how much our hearts hurt because we missed her so much. There aren’t many Bettys in this world. I don’t think I will ever stop missing the one God allowed into my life for a few special years. But I know when I go Home, Betty will have a front row seat waiting for me to all of the concerts up there……wth one bought many years in advance to a Russ Taff solo concert in the future. She’ll let me wear my big no. 1 button and she’ll be wearing that shirt she got last year that reads “No. 2.5 Russ Taff fan” I miss her so…….

  13. Phyllis S

    Thanks so much for this post, esp. after MB this weekend…We needed it!

  14. Barbara M. Lloyd

    You are right, Phyllis, and who did she send out with Linda and Candy to look like the dummy? Me! Before we got back to the condo for the “surprise,” Linda was starting to question my sanity. I could seed it in her eyes. And when Linda (lebb) starts wondering about someone else’s sanity….it’s serious.

    Last year, folks, Phyllis drove all the way from Louisanna with all the making for a terrific cayjen meal. Betty even ate it for breakfast…..and Russ and Madi followed the bread crumbs right to our door more than once. Betty dropped the bread crumbs.

  15. LindaB

    Barb, Betty KNEW who to send on that “acting” job! You deserved an Oscar! Folks, she told us that since she’s legally blind, she can’t see the products on the shelves of the drugstore, and she asked us to tell her what they were! So, we did…..up and down EVERY ROW! After we told her what it was, she’d ask us questions about it—–do we think it works well, how expensive is it, or have we ever used it before! She also said she can’t get anyone in her family at home to take her to the store and just let her look around for a while, so we, of course, felt sorry for her! But after an hour or so, we could see why no one wanted to take her shopping! I looked down the last row of the store and saw the condom display and thought we better finish up and leave before we got THERE!! We hustled her in the car with the eye drops she went for, and when we arrived back at our hotel, Betty, Beth, and Phyllis had decorated the suite for a baby shower for my daughter Candy! We knew nothing about it! We were so surprised and delighted! Did I mention that Betty LOVED a party!!! She was ready at the drop of a hat to plan one, too!

    Tori, thanks so much for this post! I couldn’t arrange to go to Betty’s funeral. I’ve always felt badly about that. I didn’t get to tell a funny story about her, or say how much she meant to me. This post has given me and others the chance to do that. You’re the best.

  16. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Betty knew she was going Home even before her surgery….and she was ready. But, we weren’t.

    Thank you, sweet Tori. She loved you dearly.

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