Sunday, February 1, 2009

Remembering Nana, remembering Ann




On Saturday, Rob’s mother – Ann Thornton Addington – passed away. She was 61.

Rob and I were driving down to see her at the hospital in Athens when she died. We missed her by 20 minutes, but Rob knew it was time for her to go and had said his goodbyes last weekend, so he found peace in that. Ann died in the presence of an old childhood friend who she hadn’t seen in years but who felt compelled to drive four hours from Tennessee to see Ann one last time. We were grateful to her for perhaps helping Ann to let go. She had been in the hospital for almost a month battling pneumonia and a host of complications that arose from it including a stroke, kidney failure and lung problems.

A couple weeks ago, when Rob and I were visiting Ann in the hospital, one of the nurses in the ICU said, “I’ve never had a patient who smiled so much, even with all she’s going through.”

Ann felt driven throughout her life to comfort other people in their times of struggle. And in her own final struggle she still found ways to comfort us -- with gentle, serene smiles and whispered “I love yous” even as her body was shutting down on her.

I first met Ann in 1995 -- after driving with our friend Sean from Colorado to Georgia to visit Rob the summer before our junior year of college. I was immediately struck by what a warm, loving, welcoming person she was. I’d never met a friend’s mother who was so easy to talk to – who made you feel like she’d known you for years the minute you walked in her door.
As a mother in law, she always made me feel like a daughter -- confided in me, shared her struggles as she battled fibromyalgia, and expressed her love for all of us so warmly and so readily every day we spent with her.
One afternoon when our youngest son, Owen, was just a few months old, Ann sat out on a lawn chair at Lake Rabun, holding Owen under the shade of the trees as he slept on her for at least an hour. Nothing could have made her happier, she said.

And perhaps the most telling testament of the wonderful work Ann did while she was on this earth is the two children she mothered. Alicia and Rob are two of the most loving, loyal, generous, compassionate people I’ve ever known -- and I know it’s because they had their mother (and their father) as an example. I’m grateful to have them in my life and grateful to Ann for being such a wonderful mother to them.

Yesterday morning, with Ann still barely with us, I offered Will a last chance to go see her. We’d told him she was likely to die and he decided he’d rather stay home but draw her a picture. So he drew a picture of Ann slightly elevated off her hospital bed with Rob and I standing beside her. Then he filled the space around us and our bodies with brilliant colors. On the back he wrote in capital letters with no spaces between the words: “Will drew this picture. I love you Nana.”

He asked me later if we’d given the picture to Nana. I told him we hadn’t made it to see her before she died but that I was sure she knew he had drawn it for her. I suggested that we could make a book about Nana and include his picture, and photos of her throughout her life and with Will and Owen. Will liked the idea. “Then we can remember Nana forever,” he said.

If you have specific memories of Ann or just words of comfort to share, we would love to have you share them here. I’d like to create a sort of online memory wall that way – and we’ll print out your reflections for Will and Owen’s Nana book. You don’t have to tailor your thoughts toward children though. We’ll all read them now, and Will and Owen will keep them for a lifetime. If you’d rather not sign onto this web site, just send me an e-mail directly (at aaddington@hotmail.com) under the subject heading “Comments for Ann” and I’ll post them for you.

Thank you again for all your thoughts and prayers.


Before you read the comments, here a few photos of Ann on a ski trip in 1979 at Sugar Mountain that Reba and Laura Caudell shared with us...



And a photo from Melissa Plaisted, taken at a 60s-themed party 19 years ago (she mentions it in her comments):

And a photo from DeAnn Evans of some of the Georgia women who made it out to Colorado for Rob and my wedding in 2001:

11 comments:

Michele said...

Dear Addington Family,

I wanted to share with you a poem that was shared with me when I lost my Father a couple years ago. It brought a sense of peace and comfort to me, and I hope it does for you all as well. Love, Michele

Gone From My Sight by Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails
to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other,

Then someone at my side says;
"There, she is gone!" "Gone where?"
Gone from my sight.
That is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her load
of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when
someone at my side says, "There, she is gone!"
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout,
"Here she comes!"
And that is dying

Annie Addington said...

This is from Reba Caudell:

Proverbs 17:17 says "A friend loves at all times." Ann's life defined true friendship. From the very minute I met her, our friendship was born and grew to a sister-friend relationship. She was loving, loyal, kind, thoughtful, and fun. She was happy for me when positive things happened in my life and was concerned and caring when things went awry. She loved deeply, gave willingly, and was very trustworthy with confidential matters. She never forgot a birthday and was a great listener.

I will always remember Ann's big bear hugs, her infectious fun loving laugh, and her love for her friends and family. She was a devoted mother to Rob and Alicia and later to Annie, a loving wife to Ron, and a wonderful grandmother to Will and Owen. They were her life.

I loved Ann and all of our time together. I shall never forget her and she will be greatly missed by me and my entire family. We have been truly blessed to have had her in our lives.

daveback said...

Rob & Annie,
I am very sadden to hear about your Mom. I have only met her a few times but I have to say, she was one of the nicest Mom's I've ever met.
When I first met her, I was in the dorms, watching Rob and his Dad move in across from me. I've been in the dorm for about a day or so, so I had all of my posters, political slogans, and junk already on the wall. It looked like a Teenager has been living in here for years. Your Mom came in to see how my room was setup, and we just had a nice chat, though I was a little embarrassed by having a Mom in my room with all kinds of Rock'N'Roll junk everywhere. That was over 15 1/2 years ago. 1st impressions lasted a long time, as I always remembered Rob's mom in such a wonderful way.

I also remembered how Rob flew home to Georgia to surprise his Mom on her birthday, and how completely surprised she was to have Rob there (I want to say that he woke her up in the middle of the night!). With that as inspiration, I did the same thing to my Mom in the mid 90's after hearing about Rob's story.

My heart goes out to you and the family.

Your friend,
David

Annie Addington said...

This is from Helen DeLoatche:

I can never remember a time that she was not there for me. When I celebrated she celebrated and when I cried she cried. She was my Toccoa sister and can never be replaced. Ann talked me all over the state of Georgia. I called her from where ever I was traveling and she gave me guidance, love and confidence. I will never get in the car again and not remember our conversations . She loved unconditionallly. We talked about her precious grandchildren and how we both had a "Will". It was her wish to be a good grandmother. We had many conversations about grandchildren and how cute and precious they were. Ann was a remarkable person and I will miss her.

Annie Addington said...

This is from DeAnn Evans:

Annie, I consider it a privilege to share my thoughts of Ann with you. I met her in the grocery store a couple of weeks after the Addingtons moved to Toccoa. She had her buggy filled with canned goods as she planned to stock her pantry for the "terrible winters" in Toccoa. I explained that we very seldom had snow in Toccoa and she was greatly surprised. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship for me. Our paths would continue to cross. Rob and Phil were very near the same age and would become best buddies. Our little boys brought Anne and me into a very close relationship. We shared many happy times and some that were not so happy. In 1984 I was diagnosed with cancer and Ann became my number one champion. She was so saddened over my illness that she couldn't do enough for me and my entire family. She carried Phil home with her and assured me that my 10 year old son would be taken care of while I was away. Ann promised to oversee his school work, piano lessons, Boy Scouts, church activities, etc. Upon returning home from the hospital I found that she had done all those things in addition to organizing two weeks of meals for our family. Her kindness was constant through six months of chemotherapy. Our boys continued their friendship and Ann and I became closer. We learned that we shared many things..........even our wedding dates. We were both married December 16, 1967. After Ann became ill we were not able to see each other as often as we would have liked but we fostered our friendship with long telephone calls. We exchanged birthday and Christmas gifts every year since our first meeting. For Christmas this past December she sent me a beautiful table arrangement of red roses centered with a little white church. The florist would tell me after her death that she wanted me to have something to remember her by. I will cherish this gift for the remainder of my life.

Annie Addington said...

This is from Sara Colegate in Clarksville, Ohio

I am a former neighbor of Ann's when we lived on Oak Creek Circle. Before I read your blog and considered what I might add, I initially thought of Ann's sunny disposition and wonderful smile, then read that in your blog. Of course, that was Ann. I was not much of a social organization person, preferring the outdoors, but Ann and I had our children in common, as Chris and Alicia were the same age, as were Julia and Rob. I'm the neighbor who took the photos of my Julia and Rob, both decked out in ballet tutus, twirling away. We also lived hippy style up the road from the Lake Rabun Addingtons in The Narrows. I probably taught Alicia how to ski in our little john boat that once belonged to Paige Pruitt.

I remember that Ann and I had the same silver pattern, "Old Lace" by Towle. We laughed about our common bond. So Southern. Ann was inherently proper, predictable, and always chose the right words for the occasion. Some of us struggled with these social graces. Ann could streamline a project with ease and wow the socks off everyone. I'll never forget one Fourth of July dinner up at the lake, when Ann offered to bring tomato and bread sandwiches. I had never heard of such, and asked her how she made them. She smiled that glorious smile, saying, "Why, Sara, you know. You slice a tomato and put it on white bread with a little mayonnaise, salt, and pepper." My thoughts on that were 'knock yourself out.' But Ann wowed all the dinner guests with her simple fare, as hers was the first platter to disappear. Smart lady.

I returned to Ohio around 1980 and rarely saw Ann much after that, but she has always been in my thoughts and prayers. As a nurse and now mature adult, I've learned that bad things happen to good people, and have never had the strong faith to understand this, but I'm quite sure that Ann must have. Ann is one of those quiet movers in life, who inspire us to live life fully and graciously. Her spirit will be with us always, as we remember that radiant smile.

Annie Addington said...

This is from Melissa Plaisted:

Ann was the kind of friend everyone wanted to have. She remembered birthdays and special occasions. She was a warm, loving, compassionateperson to all those who she came in contact with. Ann was a very socialperson and enjoyed going to parties and get-togethers, until she developedher illness. At social gatherings, she could make you feel that what you were saying was important and she would listen intently. She always seemed to be in a good mood and laughter came easy to Ann.

I enjoyed playing bridge with Ann for many years. Soon after Ann moved intoher new house, she hosted our Christmas bridge party and it was a greatsuccess. Everyone had a wonderful time, because Ann and Ron were the besthostesses. They made you feel welcomed and appreciated when theyentertained.

One of my favorite stories of Ann was when she thought there was a squirrelin her basement. She was so kind, she didn't want to use poison to get rid of it. She actually left food out to feed it. Ron got a trap to catch it andrelease it somewhere else. It turned out not to be a cute squirrel, but abig ugly rat. I remembering her laughing about that. Enclosed is a picture from 19 years ago with Ann. We were dressed up likethe 60s. Ann had a cute laugh and we all laughed and laughed that day. She was a lady who will be greatly missed by so many people.

Annie Addington said...

This is from Nancy Hill, my mom:

I first heard about Ann from Annie after she drove down to Georgia to spend some time with Rob during one summer break from college. She described her as being a very warm, loving person who told wonderful stories. When I had the chance to meet her later, I too was struck by what a friendly, welcoming person she was. Her wonderful smile and strong hugs and little touches of the hand were a special part of her presence. I knew that she must have been a wonderful mother - knowing Rob and later having had the chance to spend some time with Alicia. As I got to be with her a little more on the several occasions we were together - mainly at the births of grandchildren - I enjoyed her stories, too, and had a chance to observe her as the loving parent and grandparent she was. I always felt so badly for her when I heard how she suffered with her illness and how she had to miss some of the joys of grandparenting and some of the special family occasions that are a part of life. And now I am so sorry about her passing. She will be very missed.

Annie Addington said...

This is from Beverly Wright:

Of course the first thing everyone thinks of when they think of Ann is her big smile and welcoming greeting. She was a people person and we have all wished over the years that she had been able to be more a part of others lives and activities that she enjoyed so much.

On a personal note I will always remember the numerous phone calls she made to us at the lake when Jerry was sick. She was so concerned and caring and truly felt pain for us in those months. She had a kind and loving heart unafraid of emotion.

Annie Addington said...

This is from Dee Forester:

I think I was the first to meet Ann, Ron, Alicia and Rob when they moved to Toccoa and across the street from us. I did the neighborly thing and went up while the moving van was still there and asked if I could bring them anything. Sweet Ann said "A little ice would be nice." I am hoping I did better than that. It was wonderful to have a new neighbor from the big city-I had moved to Toccoa from Athens. Ann was so easy to be with and I loved her smile and her infectious laugh. Through the years we shared many good times, trips, swapping caring for children and frosting each others hair and lots of laughs-the hard years came later. I have always been sad that Ann became so ill that she did not have the energy to be out and about with her friends. But that illness did not dampen her spirit when I did get to see her. I last was with Ann at Wes Caudell's engagement party and we did lots of catching up. I am so glad Ann was a part of my life.

Annie Addington said...

This is from Dee Forester:

I think I was the first to meet Ann, Ron, Alicia and Rob when they moved to Toccoa and across the street from us. I did the neighborly thing and went up while the moving van was still there and asked if I could bring them anything. Sweet Ann said "A little ice would be nice." I am hoping I did better than that. It was wonderful to have a new neighbor from the big city-I had moved to Toccoa from Athens. Ann was so easy to be with and I loved her smile and her infectious laugh. Through the years we shared many good times, trips, swapping caring for children and frosting each others hair and lots of laughs-the hard years came later. I have always been sad that Ann became so ill that she did not have the energy to be out and about with her friends. But that illness did not dampen her spirit when I did get to see her. I last was with Ann at Wes Caudell's engagement party and we did lots of catching up. I am so glad Ann was a part of my life.