I spent part of my weekend working on building a bench for my ever-changing backyard.
First, the pergola. Then came the flower boxes that helped cover my left leg with poison ivy. Still in the plans are a couple of flower beds, more flowers and a few other things that I'm sure are bouncing around in my wife's brain.
But it was building the bench - with no plans, might I add - all by ourselves that would have made Al McGaw proud.
"Uncle Al" died at 90 last June. He and his beloved wife of nearly 66 years, Markey, lived beside my parents for several years, becoming friends, parents and grandparents to each of us. It's been a little over a year since they moved to Anderson, S.C., to be closer to some family members.
Thursday morning, emphysema finally got the best of Markey, and she died peacefully in her sleep. And just like we did last June for her husband, friends and family gathered at Thomson First Presbyterian Church on Sunday evening to remember Markey.
"She was everybody's mother and everything a mother should be to everyone," her son, Jim, told those gathered.
But she was so much more than that.
She was four-feet-something tall and bulletproof. She was a wisp of a woman with the spirit of a hurricane. She was an open book who added pages to her life every day - even as she lay in a hospital bed at the end.
She loved her God. She loved her family. And she loved her friends.
As her grandson, Jamie, said Sunday: "You've got to promise me you'll smile when you remember my Nanna. She wouldn't want any of you to be sad."
Various people stood during the service and shared their memories of Markey. They spoke about the Chex mix she made. They cried as they remembered her warm smile. They talked about how she was so proud of her children and loved to hear her son, Jim, play his music.
As Pastor John Cook said: She was a "classy lady."
And, boy, was she loved. Not only by her friends and family, but especially by her stubborn old goat of a husband. I watched him get misty-eyed and wave me out the door of their house one day when Markey had a health scare. "I'm losing her," he said. "I'm losing my princess."
I'll remember Markey as someone who loved life, was never too old to learn, and never too busy to love. Her home was always open, and she was always ready and willing to just sit and talk. She never complained, no matter how hard it was for her to breathe or how much her arthritis hurt.
And when I think of her, I'll surely smile.
Just like I know Al is doing right now. After all, his princess is finally home.