I'll never forget the first time I experienced being a "redhead" firsthand. I had gone for my quarterly cut, color and highlights. I sat being lulled to sleep by the relaxing warmth of the dryer. Though I had the best beautician in town, she was busier than usual and distracted. Upon realizing that the sound of the timer had escaped us both, Sherry lifted the dryer only to realize just how much time had passed. After totally stripping the color from my hair, the only color that would take was red - a bright reddish brown. What a happy accident! The result was amazing. When I got home I called my cousin Cathy, the feistiest and most fabulous redhead I know. She was ecstatic after hearing what happened and welcomed me to the "club." From that day to this, I never went back. My hidden "spirit of a redhead" was free!
The truth is, I have always been free to be "who I am inside" when around "Cat" as she is affectionately called. We have been like sisters more than cousins - at least all of my adult life and even when I was a teenager. We have had the best times in the most bizarre of situations. Like when our church choir took a trip to sing in New Orleans. Neither Cat nor I could bear the thought of the return trip on the church bus so we rode with my Daddy home. Daddy was driving and we had just one simple job - look at the map and navigate. As usual though, we cared more about chatting and giggling than navigating. Daddy had been more patient than his "Rich family" nature would normally allow, but after we circled the Super Dome for the third time, we had pushed him too far. "We are lost! You girls need to stop talking and start watching!" To add insult to injury, once we progressed closer to home on the interstate, our "gift of gab" took over once more causing Daddy to miss a turn that led us straight through Alabama and back into Mississippi. It really was all Daddy's fault though. He knew better than to trust me and Cat to focus on the road or anything else when we were together!
Tonight my mind is dizzy from a million memories of my favorite redhead. I am sitting here numb and a bit lost. I want to pick up the phone like I have a thousand times and hear the latest "news." (Secrets between sisters is never gossip just so you know.) This time though, I can't call her because this afternoon she left on a trip "home." She has been on this journey for the last year or so now that I think back on many of our conversations of how she was really missing Mama Joyce and Papa John. At least once in our conversation she would say "Come Lord Jesus." Many others have said that through this ungodly pandemic that was thrust on the world. The last leg of her trip "home" was less than easy for her and those who love her. One thing I do know about Cathy though, is that this time she wasn't distracted or lacking focus. She was the biggest Jesus lover I know. Cat loved God and loved people and always gave more than what was required or expected. There are no doubts as to where she is tonight.
When I was navigating a journey through abuse in my marriage, she hid me out more than once. I will never forget her telling me to drive to a local hotel when I left my apartment afraid to return. I must've been a sight - wet hair, bare tear-stained face, and swollen eyes filled with fear. Nothing phased her though. Cathy had a way of staying calm under pressure. She paid for a room, then took me to the nearest pharmacy to buy toiletries, make-up, and a hairbrush. I returned to the hotel and slept for the first time in days. That was just Cat's way. Her calm faith helped me navigate through my son Josh's pre-mature birth. After three months, he was miraculously released from the hospital. And who was it that became his caregiver when I returned to work? Cat of course! She was wonderful with children and helped raise a whole generation of respectful boys and girls. Cat had begun working on a second generation, helping to raise her two grandchildren. The character she instilled in them will be with them forever.
Well Cat, I am sure you received quite the homecoming today. Mama Joyce certainly wrapped you up with loving arms thanking you for staying by her side as caregiver for over twenty years after her stroke. Papa John probably grabbed his baby girl in his arms and thanked you for carrying the torch with him and after him as you helped him and then took care of him. Their love of God and love for people, their spirit of hospitality and grace ran deep in you too. I imagine Mama Rich gave you a hearty "Christmas gift!" welcome when you arrived. Paw Paw Rich can share his stories with you for all eternity. As for us here... I'm not sure how we will all navigate being on this earth without you "Red" but the love, laughter, prayers, listening ear, and support you gave us all will give us the strength to navigate through the times ahead.
I am so grateful for our last Christmas together as we played that stupid game where you put that contraption in your mouth and try to enunciate words for others to guess. It was the most apt visual of the "big mouth Rich side" one could've ever experienced! This past summer when we got lost on our crazy escapade while looking at houses for sale, I had no way of knowing it would be the last time we would laugh until we cried. I promise I will never go down McCoy Road even if it is Daddy's namesake!
One day I will write a book about our experiences - not all of them though. Some things remain between sisters, after all. Each time I look in the mirror at the reddish hues in these curly locks of mine, I'll think of you Cat. When I stroke a bit of mascara on, I'll laugh about the skit we did at the women's conference with my hands and your face doing a make-up tutorial. Mostly, should I ever feel down about myself or life, I will remember the scores of times you reminded me that I was worthy of love and blessing. You encouraged me to be my best self even when I was clueless as to who she was. Thank you seems rather inadequate, but until I see you again it will have to do. I love you my redheaded sister...