The Long Goodbye

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
June 3, 2015

Last week we said goodbye to a woman we loved very much, my mother-in-law, Geneva Kornegay Young. Geneva was a beautiful woman, inside and out, full of joy with a gift for storytelling.  She was the youngest daughter of nine children and was raised within a few miles of our ranch.  She met her future husband, George “Toke” Young, Jr. when she was in high school.  He soon went to Japan as part of the U.S. Occupation after World War II and they wrote daily.  They married on her 18th birthday in 1948 and recently celebrated their 67th anniversary. 

Geneva and Toke had two children, my husband, Steve, and his younger sister, Judy.  When Judy lost her husband very suddenly 21 years ago, they stepped in and took care of Judy and her three young children. She loved and indulged her grandchildren so much that they referred to a stay at her house as going to “Camp GG.” 

Any stray animal that showed up was pampered, fed and spoiled. She named all of Toke’s cows and delighted in explaining why they were given a particular name.  I inquired once why she gave an old cow a particular woman’s name and she replied that she used to work with a woman by that name that had knock knees, just like the cow.

Geneva was a hardworking, fun-loving woman and a fabulous cook.  Years ago I asked if she would will me the cast iron Dutch oven in which she made her famous pot roast, but she had already promised it to her daughter. Try as I might, I cannot replicate her delicious pot roast.

Ten years ago Steve decided to host an anniversary party for their 57th anniversary. I suggested he wait three years and celebrate their 60th anniversary, but he responded it was better to celebrate early rather than risk their declining health.  The party was a grand success.  He was so right to host it when he did as she began showing signs of Alzheimer’s not long after the party.

 Toke took such loving care of her that the rest of us worry that we won’t be able to match up in similar circumstances.  He reluctantly agreed that she needed to be a specialized home and drove 20 miles each way to see her on a daily basis, sitting by her side and making sure she ate a few bites of food.  Toke has taught all of us what “for better or worse” really means. He is an amazing man!

It’s been a long goodbye as she slowly slipped away from us.  My heart goes out to all of you that have lost loved ones to this dreadful disease.

She began to decline rapidly last week but Steve insisted I continue with travel to the Wyoming State Conference.  When I changed planes in Denver, I called and learned that her time on this earth was quickly coming to an end, so cancelled my next flight and returned home. Thankfully, Toke, Steve and Judy were by her side.

We shall be forever grateful for the outpouring of love and kindness demonstrated by friends scattered throughout the country and in this small rural community. The food began arriving quickly along with offers of help.  Visitation was Saturday evening and a huge crowd showed up, all saying how she had touched their lives.  Sunday afternoon we finally said goodbye with her three handsome grandsons serving as pallbearers.  Flowers filled the funeral home, even though the only florist in town recently closed their doors.  Her nieces and nephews came from all over.  Members of her DAR Chapter attended and friends drove hours to support us with love.  Ladies of my long time prayer group drove from Houston and Mindy Kammeyer flew in from Atlanta.  The Wyoming Daughters even included Geneva in their Memorial Service.

Her pastor chose an unusual scripture for the funeral:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23.  It was a perfect description of the best mother-in-law a woman could have.  She was my friend, mentor, encourager and role model.  What an incredible blessing to have Geneva on this earth for 85 years.  What a legacy she has left for all who knew her.

The procession from the funeral home to the cemetery is along a state highway and we couldn’t help but notice that even the oncoming traffic on the busy five lane highway pulled over stopped out of respect. That’s what they do in a small town.

The ladies of the church put on a feast after the interment and it was a wonderful time to visit with friends and relatives.  Judy’s four grandchildren and our three had such a grand time laughing and playing and I know their GG would have laughed with them.

Our hearts are sad by her passing, but full of gratitude with the knowledge that she is healed in Heaven and that we will see her again.  As one of my dear friends wrote, “The sadness of the loss was undeniable, but there was a sweetness in the air of this beautiful life lived and the reward that she now has received.”

My prayer for each of you is that you, too, have been privileged to have a woman like Geneva in your life. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

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