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Lessons from Louann

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Posted 04-06-2013 at 10:45 PM by Jeff Westover

I don't think we've had a bigger shock on MMC than when we heard today of the sudden passing of Louann Jeffries, aka caninemom3.

While death means different things to different people it pains me to see so many taking the loss of Louann so deeply.

How could you not?

As I think of my journey with Louann I smile, I cry, and I laugh. She had that way about her.

She was a child. She was a tender heart. She was genuine to the core.

I was looking tonight through my private messages and emails from Louann over the years. It has again taught me how far reaching these relationships are online.

So rarely do we ever meet. Never, it seems, do we get to hear the voice or see the face or experience the smile of each other.

Louann had a way of making you forget all that. You could hear her voice or feel her smile through her constant messaging and reaching out. She never turned it off.

I think I frustrated her on many levels. She was patient with my busy schedule but I think that patience wore thin as I sometimes took a long time to respond to her. That wasn't because I didn't want to talk to her. It was because I wanted to be absolutely clear about what I was saying. I feared hurting her feelings.

Louann was an individual who lived deathly afraid of causing offense. No matter what your differences she didn't want to be anything other than loved. And she would go to great lengths to be sure things were always "good" between us.

Here is a piece of a conversation we had about 3 years ago, not long after she joined MMC:

Quote:
Hi Mr. Westover,

How are you ??

I know you are a really busy man but I saw that you were on tonight and I wanted to wish you a pleasant evening and weekend.

Thank you so much for allowing me to be part of this wonderful site. I was just wondering something and it is okay if you don't have time to answer, it is no biggie. Will the title gold member eventually be taken off my name ?? I don't know how it works, so forgive me of my ignorance !!

I also wanted to tell you. Your birthday is the same as one of the most wonderful men I have ever met - my dad. He was born October 21, but a lot of years ago, 1907. He passed in 1988 and there has not been an October 21 that I have not thought of him.

Thanks for your time, sir. Please take care. I know you are always so busy. Don't forget to take time for yourself sometimes, okay ??
I chastised her for calling me Mr. Westover. That is what I always heard people call my father when they wanted his money, or my grandfather, who was a school teacher with something of a strict reputation. Nobody calls me Mr. Westover and I made that clear to Louann in short order. She responded with profuse thanks, which was her way, and then shared with me about her father, a man she deeply loved and admired. This too, I learned quickly, was Louann's way. She could and would relate. No matter -- she didn't hold back.

I can tell from the many comments left about Louann after news of her passing broke that many of you feel the way I do about her and that your relationships with her are every bit as personal as mine was.

Looking back on it now, I see it somewhat of a poetic thing that she came along when she did.

My life on MMC is in many ways disconnected from the rest of my life. I have a family life, a work life, a church life, an extended family life -- and then my online life, of which My Merry Christmas is the major part. Rarely do those worlds collide but in the past three years I found all of my lives not colliding but clashing often with each other. I felt bounced between one crisis or another going on each world. Separate from all of those things was a constant string of communication with Louann.

Often our conversations focused on Christmas. Louann's love of Christmas is, of course, the common bond we all share. Her sense of not only family but also the spiritual side of Christmas was one I especially appreciated.

It's an odd thing to consider. Me, a Mormon boy from the West Coast, sharing this thing about Christmas with a Catholic girl from the Midwest. But for whatever reason we clicked in this regard.

Believe it or not, her first months on the forum Louann was a "suspect". She just happened to join the forum at a time when two other individuals joined the forum who were, for lack of a better word, weird. As we grappled with what to do with those two we also struggled with whether or not Louann was for real. She was just so nice -- so accommodating, so kind, so gracious -- could she be for real?

We decided after watching for some time that she was an innocent, pure soul who deserved our approval. I often wonder what would have happened if we decided differently.

Within months Louann had worked her way into many hearts. I asked her to be a part of the Christmas Crew and you would have thought she had been nominated for an Oscar. She gushed with appreciation. And she meant it.

She took to her duties with gusto, working hard to find a way to contribute. Within a year or so we found a niche for her -- managing our Christmas Ornament Exchange. Like everything associated with Christmas and MMC, she attacked it. She painstakingly contacted every interested individual, kept close notes and faithfully reported to me everything that was happening. The service she rendered was done cheerfully and competently. She genuinely cared about each individual she contacted and whether or not they had a great experience on the exchange.

When I shared that I lost my job Louann was the first to contact me here.

I swear, if I asked her to conduct a job search for me she would have done it.

That was the size of her heart. She couldn't understand completely why I wasn't devastated by losing my job. She nearly chided me for not being concerned enough. But when I explained to her that my heart was actually relieved for the change and that I really did want more time for my family and for MMC she quickly caught the vision.

When I told her that Sandy and the kids had met me at the airport with balloons to celebrate my job loss she got in the spirit of the matter and sent me a card congratulating me on my loss. Only Louann!

When my daughter came home from her Church missionary service around that time Louann celebrated that with us even though she didn't quite know what that meant. It meant a lot to me so it meant a lot to her.

Later that same summer, when my Mom suffered a stroke, Louann went to great lengths to constantly "take my temperature". I look back on those months and she was checking on me every day, always asking me if I had given my Mom a hug from her.

Louann had her own struggles too. She fought with feelings of self worth. She was concerned that she was offensive to people or came across too strong or in other ways was not liked. She doubted her intelligence at times and sometimes spoke unkindly of herself. I lectured her frequently about that and told her how much it bothered me to hear a daughter of God speak that way. She was stunned -- genuinely surprised -- that I would get that strong with her. Then she was flattered to think that someone else thought of her as a royal daughter of God. She had the heart of a child.

I can't help thinking of Louann, in a way, as our own George Bailey. What would MMC have become without her? Look at the feeling and devotion she has stirred in our hearts! And why? Because she was here. She was one of us.

Louann and I didn't see eye-to-eye on many things. She was a bleeding heart liberal and I'm...not.

I once went too far in expressing my distaste for the present leadership of our Country and of our Congress. She let me have it in her Louann way. She told me in no uncertain terms how wrong I was. And then I received four follow-up messages from her apologizing.

We agreed to disagree and we never discussed politics again. It pains me now to think that my political leanings might have hurt her or lowered her estimation of me in her eyes.

I recall once pouring out my heart to her about a family situation with my wayward son. She told me I was becoming a liberal after all and over that we had a good laugh.

Louann had faith. Not perfect faith, but faith.

She was completely connected to the spiritual side of Christmas. Every time I spoke of Christ or made mention in a post or an article of something out of the Bible she would shoot me a message with an insight, a question, or an observation. She loves the Savior.

That's a thought that gives me comfort now.

We were not, of course, of the same faith but we shared values in the atonement of Jesus Christ.

As I have dealt with a lot of death over the past two years, and have blogged about it frequently, Louann and I have frankly discussed it. I don't think her own death was something she anticipated or thought too much about. But she was sure concerned about death in others that she loved, and not just her pets.

When I related to her an experience my Mother had years ago as part of a near death experience in her life Louann was keenly interested. We played the "I wonder what happens when we die..." game.

I've thought about that conversation a lot today.

I know the Savior knows Louann better than I know her. I can only imagine how loved she must feel having now made that transition from this life to the next one. She deeply believed in that. I only wish I could have been a fly on the wall to have witnessed her sweet reunion not only with the Savior but also with her dear father.

On a whim, Louann once asked me if I thought they have Christmas on the other side.

I'll tell you what I told her: of course they do.

Christmas, as a celebration, began long before the things of this world were established. The scriptures tell us that when Christ was foreordained "before the world was" that the "morning stars shouted for joy".

I don't believe for one second that the celebration of Christ stopped there. Not for us, not for those that are on the other side.

And that, more than anything else, gives me comfort in letting Louann go. She will be celebrating Christmas where she is, just as we do where we are.

It's just what we do.

It is normal enough to want to do something to honor Louann's memory -- to never forget her here on MMC. The Christmas Crew has been, through their shock and grief today, tossing around a lot of ideas. And I'm sure we'll put together a good plan and make an announcement soon.

But it struck me tonight that there is something I need to do that requires no debate or discussion.

Two years ago we began a Christmas Eve tradition of identifying one person for receipt of what we call the MMC Founder's Award. It is recognition for the one member who through out the year makes the strongest contribution to MMC through their demonstration of the Christmas spirit.

Caninemom3 was the first ever recipient of the Founder's Award.

I think it most appropriate that going forward we honor such an individual amongst us with the award renamed the Louann Jeffries Award.

God bless you, Louann. And thank you for your goodness.
Total Comments 17

Comments

  1. Old Comment
    trackrebel's Avatar
    Beautiful....and yes...there is no better name for it than that
    Posted 04-07-2013 at 01:41 AM by trackrebel trackrebel is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Maureen's Avatar
    You always have a knack of hitting the nail on head, Jeff. Louann was everything you said and more

    I think renaming the award is a fantastic idea xx
    Posted 04-07-2013 at 02:11 AM by Maureen Maureen is offline
  3. Old Comment
    lilnoelelf's Avatar
    Maureen is right Mr.Jeff, I also think it's a wonderful idea.
    Posted 04-07-2013 at 03:43 AM by lilnoelelf lilnoelelf is offline
  4. Old Comment
    ChristmasHeart's Avatar
    Thank you for sharing this with us, Jeff. I too think it is a wonderful and thoughtful idea of renaming the award!
    Posted 04-07-2013 at 04:22 AM by ChristmasHeart ChristmasHeart is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Meceka's Avatar
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful tribute to Louann, Jeff. Brilliant idea in renaming the award!
    Posted 04-07-2013 at 05:54 AM by Meceka Meceka is offline
  6. Old Comment
    JayIsh's Avatar
    I'm touched beyond words Jeff. A gentle soul with fierce loyalty to those she cared about. What a wonderful sprit. I hope one day that the same things can be said about me. CM3's passing is a lesson in saying what you feel when you feel it, and being certain that those who love you know it, just in case. Louann practiced these activities daily. Such a gift that we got to spend as much time with her as we did. Another one like her won't come along soon, if ever...And she loved you Jeff, she told me so more than once. You touched her too with your caring, and your love. She made a difference in our lives and you made a difference in hers!
    Posted 04-07-2013 at 06:34 AM by JayIsh JayIsh is offline
  7. Old Comment
    Christmas-A-Holic's Avatar
    Louann always put our needs ahead of her own by reaching out. I have been going through messages that she has sent me. She really loved us all and I loved her too. She is missed!

    Thanks for your blog. It is really nice.
    Posted 04-07-2013 at 07:04 AM by Christmas-A-Holic Christmas-A-Holic is online now
  8. Old Comment
    Great blog post. Well-said.
    Posted 04-07-2013 at 08:33 AM by ballcoach ballcoach is offline
  9. Old Comment
    MerryCarey's Avatar
    Thank you for putting our thoughts and feelings into words, Jeff.
    Posted 04-07-2013 at 09:12 AM by MerryCarey MerryCarey is online now
  10. Old Comment
    Christmasstar's Avatar
    I think it most appropriate that going forward we honor such an individual amongst us with the award renamed the Louann Jeffries Award.
    I agree totally! That is just perfect.
    Posted 04-07-2013 at 01:12 PM by Christmasstar Christmasstar is online now
  11. Old Comment
    judesmama's Avatar
    Jeff, no one can express emotion quite like you can. You captured the essence of Louann and how we all feel right now. Thank you.
    Posted 04-07-2013 at 02:26 PM by judesmama judesmama is offline
  12. Old Comment
    Snow-in-Texas's Avatar
    I think it is a great idea to rename the award after her.

    I remember when I was in the hospital with my heart event I had, she was very concerned. She was always asking Sheila how I was doing and was genuinely concerned. She had a very large heart for sure.
    Posted 04-07-2013 at 03:40 PM by Snow-in-Texas Snow-in-Texas is offline
  13. Old Comment
    momnan30's Avatar
    Thank you for this window into Louann's personality and for sharing her vulnerabilities as well as her many strengths.
    I think that the idea of renaming the award is a great one.
    Posted 04-07-2013 at 04:27 PM by momnan30 momnan30 is offline
  14. Old Comment
    snowflake22's Avatar
    Thank you for sharing this, Jeff. And what a beautiful way to honor our friend! God bless!
    Posted 04-07-2013 at 06:56 PM by snowflake22 snowflake22 is online now
  15. Old Comment
    Solice's Avatar
    Beautiful Jeff. Just beautiful! ♥
    Posted 04-08-2013 at 02:32 AM by Solice Solice is offline
  16. Old Comment
    xmastidings's Avatar
    Thank you Jeff for sharing your thoughts and your conversation that you had with Louann us. I will miss her kind personality and her thoughtfulness for us all in each and everyone of her posts....
    Posted 04-08-2013 at 06:36 AM by xmastidings xmastidings is offline
  17. Old Comment
    Seawaters's Avatar
    How perceptive you are! Thanks for helping us all through our grief and for remembering Louanne.
    Posted 04-11-2013 at 12:22 PM by Seawaters Seawaters is offline
 
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