Chicken or Hot Dogs?
© Betty Sue Eaton
The day was mid-August and unbearably hot and humid as Mother, my sister, Louise, and her
family and I arrived in Jacksonville for my Aunt Dora's funeral. Thinking that after tending their
elder sisters' deaths from cancer she, too, was dying of the same disease, she had taken her
own life.  Mother had asked to come to Jacksonville to visit Aunt Dora, but having recently
been hospitalized with a severe kidney infection accompanied by high fever, she was not up to
the grueling trip on that hot August day. The next morning after Mother deferred the visit to a
cooler time, we were notified of Aunt Dora's death. Mother was devastated as she was the only
one of the sisters left.

Arriving in Jacksonville in late afternoon, we all were looking forward to having a cool shower
and dinner. Going to the home of our Aunt Lois, Uncle Oliver's widow - Mother's younger
brother - we met all of the cousins, now grown up and 'different' people than we remembered
from our childhood.  Amid all the clucks and "tsks" about Aunt Dora's manner of demise, we did
what most relatives do after long absences from one another:  We queried and were queried
about our lives, occupations, children, in-laws and out-laws. What issued from that visit was a
patchwork history of the Parker, Hicks and Murphy families. It was amazing though that so
many of the cousins and their children had entered the education field as had the Hicks' and
Murphy's.  It WAS rather enjoyable, if I do say so. Then came dinnertime!

Aunt Lois issued a command that Louise and one of the cousins go to Kentucky Fried Chicken
and pick up buckets of fried chicken selected for individual tastes: Crispy or original, mashed
potatoes, salads, and biscuits and gravy for the crowd of about 30 people.  Louise, being the
'frugal gourmet', obligingly took me and one of our cousins shopping. On the way, she informed
the cousin that no way was she going to spend close to $100 for that much chicken!  Instead,
we visited the local grocery store and selected our purchases: Hot dogs, buns, mustard, relish
and potato chips! Our cousin was outraged that Louise should dare go against his mother's
orders, but once Louise made up her mind, a Missouri mule couldn't have moved her!

So back at Aunt Lois' home, Louise inquired of a large pot that could hold four or five pounds of
wieners, then she asked for paper plates, napkins, spoons and forks. Instead of the colas
everyone had ordered, Louise made a large amount of tea and told Aunt Dora that she would
need ice, and if she had none, or not enough, then the accompanying cousin could go to the
convenience store to retrieve enough. That understood, Louise and I set about preparing hot
dogs, chips and iced tea.

Aunt Lois was never known to be a person with a great sense of humor and that night was a
glowing example of what brought about that reputation! Everyone ate in silence, except the
ones who were grumbling under their breath that they really wanted KFC! But no one went to
bed hungry that night.

Emotions run high in times of tragedy, and often poor judgment results in extremely bad
choices. Although the fried chicken probably would have tasted better to most, hot dogs were
nourishing and sufficed very well as we had not driven 400 miles to sit at feasts that none of us
could afford. Louise, Mother and I were not thinking of anything except that our aunt and
beloved sister had died a terrible death. Now our attention turned to getting Mother to accept
that she could have done nothing to prevent the tragedy as Aunt Dora had been preparing for
this eventuality for three years since the second of their sisters had died. A visit to her home
revealed messages on every single item there as to who should get what, when to remove the
items from the home, and then have her will read. More evidence became clear that she had
planned this long before anyone knew how very ill she was and what she was planning. Now
all that was left was for us to guard Mother's health as it was tenable at best.

After attending the services for Aunt Dora and saying our goodbyes to the relatives, our little
group headed back to Midland to a somewhat more pleasant environment - less humid, though
just as hot, and how we would support Mother in her grief process, which wouldn't be easy.

Thank God, she lived with Louise and her family in California, and we knew she would be in
excellent hands with as much support as she required.

We all need a valve to release the pressure of unbearable sadness, and sometimes, laughter -
or at least amusement will fill the bill. When we are grieving the loss of a loved one, laughter
and tears are very close relatives, and sometimes, it's far better to allow the laughing sister to
emerge for a little while. Grieving is very hard work and can last for a very long time. Chances
to laugh or be amused are all too fleeting in that period, and we would all be well advised to
take advantage of those chances when or from wherever they come. Laughing is one of God's
most cherished gifts to us, and we should use it liberally!

And so it goes, sometimes, we have to find something to laugh about even in the face of
unimaginable sadness! Hot dogs ARE pretty tasty, don't you think?


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