I was casually checking the feed on Facebook last evening and noticed a post announcing the passing of my cousin Yvonne at 5:32 pm last evening in Hattiesburg, MS. I knew that she had suffered from and survived several bouts of cancer – but it came back one more time and she decided that she wasn’t going to go through the trauma of fighting it again. She said that it was just too much for her and she wasn’t up for the battle.
I was blessed to know her and during the last several years we re-established a connection that was lost more than 40 years ago. We would periodically speak by phone and we kept in touch through Facebook as well. She was deeply religious and believed that she was going home to be with the Lord. She was the oldest of our generation – that is, children of my Dad’s generation.
I met Yvonne when I was a little boy. She was at least eighteen years older than I am as Dad was the youngest of three boys and Yvonne was the eldest child of Vernon, Dad’s oldest brother. He and Aunt Alice had four children: Yvonne, Vernon, Jr., Ronnie and Sandra. Dad worked with Vernon and Vernon had been very kind to our family when Dad was starting out his own business.
That end of the family owned a plywood mill in Beaumont, MS – about 30 minutes outside of Hattiesburg, and Dad was responsible for selling and tracking part of their production for delivery into the Chicago area. We were used to Vernon coming to visit and he even stayed in my room when he came to see Dad. He would sleep with the window open, even in the middle of winter, and he and Dad would laugh, drink coffee together and smoke their Pall Malls early every morning.
So Uncle Vernon and Aunt Alice were well known to us, but we didn’t really know our cousins until we travelled to Mississippi to visit the plywood mill. In those days, we never went anywhere on vacation unless Dad had a business reason to go there. We just couldn’t afford it. But this time, we were headed to Hattiesburg and then, as a special treat, to New Orleans.
I met all four of my southern cousins that trip. Yvonne was married to Jim and they had two children as I recall. Yvonne loved to bake and made the best cakes you can imagine. She had quite a business going in her home and I remember sampling her cakes in the kitchen. She was delightful and reminded me, in a way, of the elder members of the family. There was just something about her – you couldn’t help but know that she was a part of the Toussaint clan.
I travelled down with Dad several times, and even more frequently when I joined the company and we were fortunate to have sold even more of the mill’s production. Each trip I would see Yvonne, as well as Vernon, Jr. and Ronnie, both of whom worked at the plant. Sandra had moved outside Washington, D.C. and we even visited her once there. Unfortunately, she passed away rather young, from cancer, and she was the first of the 9 first cousins to die. Vernon, Jr. passed away last fall and now, Yvonne. I am told that Ron is ill and aside from him, that leaves the northern cousins – Jacqueline and Laurel, the daughters of Wayne and Francis, as well as my two brothers and myself. Since Janet’s mother and father were only children, she doesn’t have any cousins!
It hits closer to home when our own generation starts to pass away and even though Yvonne was the oldest, it is a stark reminder that we are all mortal. But I am so glad that Yvonne and I had a chance to get reconnected. After the mill closed, there was no longer a reason to head south to the plant and for the most part, we lost touch with that end of the family – especially after Uncle Vernon and Aunt Alice passed away.
We had great times there – and now they are but a memory. Eating dinner at Jimmy Faughn’s, the local go-to place for dinner; and I especially remember my aunt and uncle’s home at 104 Mamie Street. It’s so strange to remember some of the minor details almost 40 years after my last visit there. In any event, it is good to know that Yvonne is in heaven with the Lord and other members of the family who believed in Jesus Christ and have predeceased her. I’ll miss her…
Last night, I spent most of the evening thinking about her and the rest of the Mississippi part of the Toussaint family. I wish that I had known them all better, as well as their children, but it is tough to make up for decades of losing touch with each other. It just reaffirms to me how important family is.
The verse for this evening is one we have all heard countless times. It is from Pauls’s second letter to the Corinthians. He tells us, regarding our bodies and heaven, in 2 Corinthians 5:8-9, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” (ESV) This is certainly the way that Yvonne felt as she neared the end of her life.
My encouragement this evening is that we should be spending as much time as we can with our families – while we can. My prayer is that we will all be more dedicated to appreciating the differences that make our families strong and vibrant. After all, each of us is created in the image of God and together, we are stronger than if we are divided from one another. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…