My husband’s father shares his name - in fact, my husband’s father is Lee Kelley Junior, my husband is Lee Kelley III and my stepson is Lee Kelley IV. That is a lot of Lees! With a legacy of Lees, each of them has gone through the journey of being called “Little Lee” and then when they grew into men with their own little Lee, they became “Big Lee.” When they are all together - especially when all of the aunts and uncles are around - it’s hard to figure out which Lee is big, little, medium - and trust me - none of them ever wants to be referred to as “Little Lee.” Alas, that just hasn’t been in their cards to deny :)
Over the past weekend, the biggest of the Lees moved beyond this realm and joined his beloved wife, Florence...
Big Big Lee. He truly was a FORCE. He came in like a lion, and in his final precious days, he gracefully bowed out like a lamb. With an undeniable wild streak, Big Lee was unforgettable. If he was in a quiet moment, that moment could quickly turn into a hilarious - or shocking - synopsis of his observations. Those who knew him best have a collection of “Lee-isms,” phrases and nonsensical words that will live on and perplex future generations of Kelleys.
Big Lee lived in New Orleans for nearly his entire life, which gave him a genuine love of the water, and a streetsmart edge no one wanted to mess with. His persistence was more than noteworthy, and is one of the most admirable qualities that my husband shares with him. In January of 2006 he lost his beloved wife, Florence. His broken heart never quite mended; in his final days, he surrendered to the loving forcefield of his three children, letting down his guard, accepting help and basking in their constant presence and care.
It’s hard to reconcile the loss of a soul who, just days before, enjoyed shrimp pasta. Just days before, he visited a friend; delivered a plant to another; called his son; slept in his own bed. It’s hard to reconcile that space where life was just witnessed and now they say it’s over. And now my sweet husband and his sisters will feel the Earth a little differently; children of parents who no longer walk in this physical realm.
He sent me this beautiful Jewish prayer that has soothed his heart.
Kaddish Yatom - Mourner’s Kaddish
Meditation before Kaddish
When I Die
Give what’s left of me away
to children and old men that wait to die.
And if you need to cry,
cry for your brother walking the street beside you.
And when you need me, put your arms around anyone
and give them what you need to give me.
I want to leave you something,
something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I’ve always known or loved,
and if you cannot give me away,
at least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind.
You can love me best by letting hands touch hands,
and by letting go of children that need to be free.
Love doesn’t die, people do.
So, when all that’s left of me is love,
give me away.
Rest in happiness, Big Lee. We love you.