My great aunt Laura Lilly McMichael died yesterday afternoon, at the age of 95. She’d moved to Atlanta a couple of years ago, away from Quitman, GA, where she lived virtually her whole life.
Laura was the 4th of 5 children of my great grandfather, Homer Lilly — she came a couple of years after my Grandee was born; she was his little sister. Their sister (Ellie, 2nd of 5), my grandfather and Laura lived almost their whole lives in Quitman, just a couple of blocks away from each other. Think of that.
Laura was married to Bill McMichael, a man that I remember from my childhood as being approximately 10 feet tall. In pictures he sure looks like maybe he wasn’t quite that tall, but my memory seems clear. He was a big, friendly man to me always — seems like he was always holding court in the study of their big house, smoking a cigar and making jokes.
It wouldn’t be remembering about Laura without at least mentioning her house. She & Bill lived in a beautiful white house on the main street of Quitman — with a white picket fence, and trees with spanish moss, and everything you’d see in a movie about the South. She really loved that house. My 2nd cousin, Mary Michael Stewart, her granddaughter, told me once that Laura didn’t have pictures of her grandkids in her wallet, but did have a number of pictures of the house.
In very many ways, Laura is who I think of when I think of the South — her house, her mannerisms, her speech, the way she was involved in church and the community. A lot of Jessica Tandy’s character in Driving Miss Daisy reminds me of her. (And my grandmother, too, but in a different way.)
We got to see Laura in Atlanta just a few weeks ago, and I’m thankful to have gotten to do that. She seemed happy & engaged, and pretty much in charge of the conversation, like every time I can really remember talking to her. She reminded me of my grandfather a few times during the conversation, and I’m thankful for that, too.
Hurricane Ivan notwithstanding, Laura will be buried in Quitman later this week, next to Bill, I think, and nearby just about everyone that I knew in Quitman, where my dad grew up. Think of that, too.