In Rome . . . without Harriette

22 Nov

I booked today’s event on September 16th while sitting in the parking lot of Foxtale Bookshoppe, the beginning of my Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches book tour. I remember the date not because of the lovely event in Woodstock, Georgia, but because I had just hung up the phone with Mother, just learned the outcome of the meeting with her surgeon, oncologist, general practitioner and a second oncologist. I had listened as mother explained that the doctors, “don’t quite know what to do with me.” Her voice getting weaker, mine silent because —yet again—I felt punched in the gut.

I can’t even imagine what it felt like to hear, “We don’t quite know what to do because, sadly, there’s nothing more we can do.”

I only know what it felt like to hear Mother tell me that she was out of options.

Those who do not have a loved one with a terminal illness cannot possibly understand the struggle to survive, to live . . . exist. Every. Single. Day.

It sounds trite, but cancer effects everyone. Patient. Caregiver. Loved One. Doctors. Nurses. And if you have never personally experienced cancer, if you have never witnessed a family member be strong only to succumb to an illness, then (quite frankly) you probably don’t have a lot of compassion for those of us who have. Perhaps your secret prayers are in thanksgiving that cancer hasn’t touched your life.

Perhaps you can’t relate to my desperate need for compassion and tenderness instead of stress and drama; but this blog post isn’t about me, it is about the uncertainty that life brings. Pay attention dear readers. Pay close attention.

Everyone reading this blog can learn a valuable lesson.

Life is not about you.

Life should be about people who are struggling to put one foot in front of the other, whether their fight be for their next breath, or just to make it through the day with an emotional breakdown.

Life should be about love, not selfishness.

Life should be about kindness, not greed.

Life should be about compassion, not about wants and desires.

What is your life about? Is it all about you?

*  * * * * *



Miss Sassy Britches with her firstborn, and her lastborn.

Enter my darling friend Harriette . . .

I met Harriette Keen Jacobs a few years ago at the Georgia Red Clay author workshop. Harriette was a genius of an author. Quick witted. Smart. Funny. People didn’t chuckle around her, they belly-laughed. She was the mastermind behind the blog South of the Gnat Line. 

She was Southern to the marrow of her bones.

She was my friend.

Not FB friends.

Not acquaintances.

We were curl-up-on-the-couch-and-chat friends, the person I called after booking the event at Dogwood Books.

I called Harriette, “Guess where I’m going in November?”

When I told her that I was traveling to Rome, Georgia (her hometown), she was excited.

“I’ll gather the girls,” she said. “We will descend upon you. Then we can have lunch. Oh, I’ll take you around. It will be great.” Her excitement, fed me . . . made me feel a bit less lonely. Harriette loved people.

Correction. Harriette loved loving people.

But on October 10 of this year her husband ended all of that.

With one shot.

Harriette was gone.

Gone –even now—words can’t express.

Momma’s gone now too.

Oh—my heart.

What is your life about? Do you spend your time loving people?

Do you really love people? Or are you manipulating them to bend to your will?

I can’t imagine what Harriette’s boys have gone through, or her girlfriends who were featured in South Magazine. Nine girls, all born in 1961, whose lives have been woven together like kudzu wrapped around a Longleaf Pine.

*  * * * * *

I haven’t been warm since Harriette left this earth. My bones have been cold. At night, I lie on a heating pad, sleep on flannel sheets; but nothing seems to warm me.

Today, I travel to Rome Georgia. Recently dubbed one of America’s Greatest Main Streets. I will walk where Harriette once walked, although I will do so without her by my side. My hope is that somewhere along the way, her spirit will slip up behind me and waft across my skin. My prayer is that somehow she will hug me one last time.

Because that was what her life was about . . .

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Email her through her website at She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.





Posted by on November 22, 2014 in A Glimpse into My Life, Wrinkles and all


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4 responses to “In Rome . . . without Harriette

  1. Amy Hill Hearth

    November 22, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Oh, Renea…..sending hugs & love & prayers to you.

  2. Amy Holliday

    December 30, 2014 at 2:44 am

    Harriette is truly one of a kind!! Her boys were given more of a gift in their short time with what she created as her legacy than some people are granted in 90 years of life!!! Precious precious memories to keep their hearts and spirits kindred to hers!!!

  3. jan

    May 14, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Just saw this while browsing.. You hit the nail on the head as we say here in Rome about Harriette, she loved loving people, making people laugh, feeling good about themselves…it was all about others with her, never complaining about her own plight, which we now know was NOT the best. She had come into her own, was beginning to enjoy life and enjoying more time with her Honorary Sisters (especially Dawn)… She is missed to this day. Don’t know why I had her on my mind today, but just thought I would share after seeing this. Lived across the street from her during elementary/high school years…and my little sister was one of her Honorary Sisters and I considered her my little sister…Love and miss her

  4. Karen Spears Zacharias

    November 22, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Such sadness in the world. I am sorry about Momma. Sorry about Harriette. We should curl up on the couch and chat sometime.


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