by Bill and Brenda Evans
Find out more about Free Will Baptist Foundation at www.fwbgifts.org.
To leave is to die a little
To die to what we love.
We leave behind a bit of ourselves
Wherever we have been.
A green swale of meadow and swaying poplars. A slender hollow and riffled stream. A shelter, a home tenoned and mortised to a rocky hillock. A half-century of labor, refuge, and love.
It is September, the leaving month. The last hay is cut, was rolled weeks ago. New places have been found for the animals, even Big Boy, the loving black lab.
The meadow, hollow, stream, barn, house, and old slave-dug wells are officially owned by a new family. Paperwork is signed, sealed, finished. What is left is to empty the house and brace her body for a journey hundreds of miles south to her new place.
“I really wish I could spend the rest of my life right here, but it is not wise. I was 26 and Lincoln was 39 when we bought this land before we married. We designed and built it all ourselves. Our son was raised here. But I am leaving it to others now. You do what you have to do, and I can do this. I’ve done hard things before.”
At eighty, Norma Gene Bloebaum is leaving her Kentucky home of 52 years, but her head and heart are already in another place—a new home near her son and his family in North Carolina. She is settled and matter-of-fact about the move.
“I’ve made up my mind; I’ll just take things as they come. I can do this just like I have everything else in my life. As a kid, I was a tomboy. Even my name is spelled like a boy’s. I climbed trees, had scooters and skates, and trained Tom and Mike, two leghorn roosters that my father de-clawed, to sit on the front porch swing with me.”
“The hard times taught me what I could do. My father battled cancer and was unable to work for four years. We lived on almost nothing. I left college, and my sister and I helped pay off his hospital bills and my parents’ home. When Lincoln and I married after my father’s death, I took care of my mother. You do what you have to do.”
Norma Gene (or just plain Gene as most of her friends call her) has always been unshakeable and hard-working. She began college in 1946, put the degree on hold for 42 years, and finished her bachelor’s with honors in 1988. In her teens she took a few piano lessons and within weeks became the church pianist and later the organist. “I learned a song a week until I could play them all,” she says.
She and her husband Lincoln raised cattle, hogs, and a menagerie of pets on three farms. Plus they each held down a full-time job. After his ten-year struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease ended, Gene carried on as before.
“Lincoln always trusted me with our money. When we were first married, he sold some cattle and asked me to hold onto $1,000. A month later he asked for it. He knew he could count on me. We always saved, bought company stock where we worked, bought land, and never spent big. Later on I invested in church bonds, government bonds, and more recently gift annuities,” Gene says.
“The reason I like gift annuities is because I believe in giving, and I hunt bargains. I get income now, but after my death my money will still be working. Even if I could get as much income somewhere else, this is a gift to the Lord’s work. I take out one every year. You know what they say about not taking it with you,” Gene laughs.
Now she is battling CIDP, a painful auto-immune disease, with a grin, a cane, and intravenous injections. Her tomboyish I-can-do-anything spirit is alive and thriving.
Certainly, Gene will leave a bit of herself behind in Kentucky, as the poet says. But when she squares her shoulders and declares, “I believe you make the best of it, whatever that is,” you know that she will take the best of herself with her.
About the Writers: Bill Evans, former director of the Free Will Baptist Foundation, lives in Catlettsburg, KY, with his wife Brenda, a retired English teacher. They are proud grandparents of seven. To learn more planned-giving options offered by the Free Will Baptist Foundation, visit www.fwbgifts.org.