Here, family knows no boundaries of blood, and you’ll often find folks scattered within our lives who aren’t related to us but are close to our hearts.
This obituary is for Elizabeth Stanton Killian, but few folks knew her by that name. She spent 87 years answering to three names: Mama when her children called, Nanny to her grandchildren and Miss Jim to the rest of us around Clover.
Although were weren’t related, she was family to me just as was her late husband, Des “Cooter” Killian.
I lived beside them during my early years, and many of those memories are forever burned in my mind.
When word got to me Monday that Miss Jim had died, I was heartbroken.
Still, one thought that I couldn’t get out of my head was just how strange she would die the week of Halloween. This week is the anniversary of a great story between us, and she has laughed about it and retold it for as far back as I can remember.
Everybody says their mother or grandmother was or is a great cook, but Miss Jim was truly exceptional.
When I was a youngster I ate at least one meal a day at her house and, as her boys, Jimmy and Dan, can tell you I often got in the way of their enjoyment of her expertise in the kitchen. They regularly got their hand slapped when they reached for something she was saving for me.
Halloween was the one occasion of the year that I ever rang the doorbell at their house. Every other day I just scurried up the tall steps in their garage and entered right into the kitchen, but my mother insisted that this is how it had to be done on Oct. 31 so I went along with it.
I pushed the button and in a matter of a few seconds Miss Jim opened it. As everyone does with children, she went on and on about my costume and pretended she had no idea it was me until I pulled my mask up to show her.
She extended a great big bowl of candy and told me to get whatever I wanted, but I just stood there.
“You don’t see anything you want?” she asked.
I shook my head.
“There’s all kinds of stuff in there. Just dig around and you’ll find something,” she added.
After a minute or so, I looked up at her and gave her the line that has given her a good laugh for almost 45 years.
“Miss Jim, have you got any biscuits?”
Of course, she did. There were always homemade biscuits in that kitchen and I knew it.
In less than a minute I was in my familiar spot at her table eating them, all slathered up with her famous apple butter while dressed as Frankenstein’s monster or who knows what.
From that year on, clear up until I got to old to go trick-or-treating, Miss Jim had those biscuits and apple butter ready for me in a little “care package.”
One year, on the afternoon of Halloween she told me, “Now, if you eat them all now there won’t be any when you get here tonight!”
Although I don’t recall, there’s a pretty good chance that the first wild game I ever ate was cooked in her kitchen as well, and the “care packages” that she has regularly prepared for me in recent years have changed a little bit.
Because she knew just how much I loved her fried rabbit, she has regularly left me a little brown bag at Killian’s Service Center with her boys every time she had rabbits to fry.
It makes my heart ache to think that I’ll never again get that phone call from Jimmy saying, “Mama left you a ‘care package.’ Get up here.”
I loved those biscuits and I loved that fried rabbit, but, most of all, I just loved Miss Jim.
We all did.
Brad Harvey is a freelance outdoors writer in Clover. Visit his website at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors.