By Juanita Floyd
Jacob Lawrence said, “When my life ends, to know that I have added a little beauty, a little more perception, and to know that I have improved the quality of life of just one individual who will follow after me, then my living is not in vain.”
Recently, I attended the homegoing services of Loreta Fair Shell and Thomas Myles – two different people, who exuded beauty, changed perceptions and improved the quality of life for those of us who follow after them.
During Mrs. Shell’s service, I had the distinct honor of giving special remarks about her. How do you say goodbye to someone who loved you unconditionally?
There were times when I didn’t visit Ms. Loreta like I should have. I didn’t call her often; yet, she constantly told me she loved me. She would even send beautiful messages by her sister, Kathryn Cobb, and the words were always, “Tell Juanita that I love her and I am proud of her.” Admiring her beautiful decorated home, I told her she had the skills of an interior decorator.
Two days before she passed, I visited her in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital. She could not talk because of all the tubes; so I talked to her and thanked her for loving me unconditionally, and encouraging me down through the years. I asked her to forgive me for not visiting like I should have and for not calling her as I should have. Even in her critical state, she nodded her head and as she opened her eyes – a lone tear fell. In that moment, my soul was freed.
In attending the services of Mr. Myles, I recalled the first time I met him. CREATE’s office was previously located above Reed’s Gift Shop. He worked for Reed’s – so I saw him quite often. He always encouraged me to do my best on the job and to work faithfully – as working unto the Lord.
Morris McCain, an employee of Reed’s, stated at the funeral, “Thomas was my friend and I attribute my career as an artist to him. In the early 70s’, Thomas asked me to paint their church baptistery and from that – I painted baptisteries all over Mississippi.”
Church member, Paul Collier, told how Myles shaped his life. Collier said, “He was a motivator and mentor for young black men. He taught us how to work in the Lord’s house and the importance of being on time.” Pastor Donnell Nichols said, “He was a good and faithful deacon. He loved his wife Loverta (LV) and family.”
As I reflected on the lives of my two special friends and their traits, the words from Elizabeth Kubler Ross came to mind, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
As we enter into a new year, typical resolutions include losing weight, quit smoking, etc. Should the resolutions be: To seek forgiveness; to love thy neighbor as thyself; or to improve the quality of life for others? You be the judge.
Juanita Gambrell Floyd is vice president for Finance and Administration at CREATE Foundation. Contect her at firstname.lastname@example.org.