My sister, Alice Beymer died on July 6, 2015 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Alice was the third of five children born to our parents, Lois and Morris Graves. Bryce, Don, Alice and Clarice were born in that order. I came along 17 years later as the letter E of the A,B,C,D,E, kids. After my birth, our Mother was on record as telling Dad she was not going on to Z. By not growing up with my siblings, I played mainly with my imaginary friend, “Soggy” and got to know my brothers and sisters as they would come home to visit. Like the rest, Alice treated me as a little prince and because I could not say her name, she was my “Lally”.
In reflecting on Alice’s passing, it seems our family has been grieving for years just as we had for our Mother who suffered from the same devastating illness. When my niece, Carol and nephew John called to tell me of her death, my tears of grief quickly turned to joy as a wellspring of loving memories flooded my mind. It was as though these memories had been suppressed for years, only to be unlocked by the great joy and comfort found in my belief that Alice is with God.
In that flood of emotion, Alice’s joy for life kept coming back to me as I remembered her laughing and singing. Whether at work, play, with family or without, Alice had joy in her heart, and in her passing, I realized her joy was His joy. She had Jesus in her heart every day. I did not always think of her this way. In my cynical teenage years, I wondered if my joyous Lally was just an act and watched her closely for a time. After all, when you are a moody, self absorbed teenager, that joyous thing gets old. It quickly became apparent that if her joy was was an act, it was Oscar worthy. Alice was genuine.
Further reflection reminded me that Alice’s joy did not equate to having an easy life. She found herself alone with no job and two young children after her husband left. The years that followed were a test, but with God’s grace she persevered with her cheery disposition renewed to be a devoted mother.
She taught second grade in an inner city public school for many years and made home visits to speak with parents because she cared that deeply about their children. Their children were her children and they did not get an easy pass. Our son, Jeff remembers in reading sessions with her as a little boy, that she would not let him go on until his pronunciation and voice inflection were right. Though her neighborhood changed for the worse over time, she never moved and made a point of walking up and down the street getting to know her neighbors and picking up litter in the alley.
In today’s world, Alice would likely be called out as “judging” since she would say what was on her mind if she thought you might be missing the mark. For instance: “Uncle Merit, don’t you know you can get cancer by chewing tobacco?” No matter if it was a question or direct statement, you knew Alice was saying it out of love. She would lead with love, but always spoke the truth, because she lived her life wanting the good for everyone.
Alice’s childlike good cheer and trusting manner produced an innocence in her speech at times that could shock you because it came from an adult. I say that lovingly because I now see her littleness in Jesus’ words; “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Mt.18: 3-4
As a little boy, I wish I had asked my Lally if she had an imaginary friend like Soggy, and I hope I can learn to be little enough again to ask her that question some day. By the way, as he finished loading his cheek with Beech Nut tobacco, Uncle Merit’s reply was:
“Alice, I don’t smoke; I don’t drink; and I don’t chase women….but a man’s got to have something.”
written by Eric Graves